Senate panel endorses Kempthorne for Interior secretary

The Senate Energy &Natural Resources Committee has approved President Bush’s nomination of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to be the next Secretary of the Department of Interior, succeeding Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who resigned.

The committee approved the nomination May 10 on a nearly unanimous voice vote; Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted present. The nomination now goes to the full Senate for a vote at a time to be scheduled. Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he expects the Senate to confirm Kempthorne before the end of May.

“The many challenges facing the Interior Department and its agencies demand that the Senate act swiftly to confirm a successor to Secretary Gale Norton,” Domenici said. “This department plays a central role in managing many issues critical to the country, including much of our energy production and all of our natural resources. Interior needs a new leader immediately.”

Kempthorne, a former senator, was a champion of funding for the Department of Energy’s hydropower research and development program. A governor since 1999, he was chairman of the National Governors Association, chairman of the Western Governors Association, and president of the Council of State Governments.

While in the Senate, Kempthorne consistently supported increased funding for DOE’s hydropower R&D program to build and test turbine prototypes designed to be more efficient and less hazardous to fish. He also sponsored legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act.

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