Interior gets new deputy secretary, NOAA gets new director

New leaders are on board at two of America’s natural resources policy agencies.

The U.S. Senate, after a nearly seven-month delay, has confirmed Michael L. Connor as deputy secretary of the interior.

Connor, who previously served as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, counsel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, director of the Department of Interior’s Indian Water Rights Office, and staff lawyer for the cabinet department, was approved for the post by a 97-0 vote on Feb. 27.

Connor will be number two at Interior to secretary Sally Jewell, overseeing a team of more than 70,000 employees and an annual budget of around $18 billion.

His nomination had been in limbo since Obama nominated him for the post in July 2013.

Lowell Pimley, an engineer who has been an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation since 1980, will serve as interim director of that agency until the Senate confirms Connor’s replacement in the job.

On March 10 Obama nominated Estevan Lopez, the director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, to lead Reclamation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also welcoming a new leader.

Kathryn Sullivan, a retired U.S. Navy Reserve officer, astronaut, oceanographer, and former NOAA chief scientist, was confirmed March 6 as the tenth director of the agency and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

Senate GOP Blocks Deputy Interior Secretary Nominee

President Obama’s nomination of a deputy secretary of interior continued to be stalled in the Senate Wednesday as Republicans rallied to defeat a cloture motion.

David Hayes, who would be Interior secretary Ken Salazar’s number two, cannot take the job for which he has been chosen until the filibuster is stopped and confirmation by the Senate is secured.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said that the filibuster is aimed at convincing Salazar to explain further his recent decision to cancel certain oil and gas leases in the West.

The vote on the cloture motion was 57-39. Sixty votes are required to stop a filibuster.