By Kathleen Hennessey and Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
February 6, 2013, 5:18 p.m.
WASHINGTON — President Obama nominated a former petroleum engineer and commercial banker who is also a conservationist and chief executive of an environmentally conscious retailer to lead the Interior Department on Wednesday, making an unorthodox selection for his first female nominee to his second-term Cabinet.
Sally Jewell, president and chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc., has no government credentials and little public policy experience. But her resume could appeal to the feuding interests that drive much of the debate at the department in charge of managing federal lands: the oil and gas extraction industries seeking access to public land and the environmentalists seeking preservation.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell, 56, will replace Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator who held the post throughout the president’s first term. Salazar has overseen an expansion of resource extraction on federal lands, to the dismay of environmental groups, which contend that the push for energy independence has too often trumped environmental concerns.