Greg Dalton: Welcome to Climate One from the Commonwealth Club, a conversation about America's energy, economy and environment. To understand any of them, you have to understand them all. I'm Greg Dalton.
As U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell oversees one-fifth of the country's total landmass, a vast portfolio that includes national parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. She also oversees landscapes used for livestock grazing, coal mining and oil drilling. Nearly one-third of American energy production comes from Federal lands. In the next hour, we'll talk with Secretary Jewell and our live audience about conserving America's natural heritage and meeting the country's energy needs. That's a tall order in normal times and it's even more challenging in the era of climate disruption that is driven by burning fossil fuels.
Prior to joining the Obama administration earlier this year, Sally Jewell was CEO of Seattle-based outdoor retailer REI. Trained as an engineer, she worked for Mobil Oil in the oil fields of Oklahoma, and then for banks lending to the petroleum industry. Please join me in welcoming Secretary Jewell to the Commonwealth Club.
Sally Jewell: Thanks, Greg.
Greg Dalton: Welcome, Secretary Jewell.
Sally Jewell: Thank you.
Greg Dalton: Let's talk about the attention between protecting America's natural heritage and extracting resources. It's a little bit like the police running bars and dance clubs. It's a little strange to get around both of those in one organization. So how do you approach balancing those two things?
Sally Jewell: I think it's a challenge that we all have. Show of hands for somebody that uses no fossil fuels today. [Laughter] I don't see a single hand, which I — you know, we are energy-consuming people, and yet we are also people that I think can learn from science. We can apply technologies. We can change the way we do things, and if we could turn back the clock and, using the knowledge that we have now, and apply that back, maybe a couple of hundred years ago, we might be in a different situation than we were faced with now.
I have a large portfolio, as you point out. It certainly has many resources that belong to all American people and there are elements on those resources that are important for energy development, but also places that are too special to develop. And my job is in balancing this complex portfolio, and it is indeed very, very complex.
Greg Dalton: And, recently, you outlined your vision for your role as Secretary of the Interior, and a lot of that had to do with youth engagement. So how do you plan to get young people off the couch and into national parks?
Sally Jewell: Well, first, a lot of young people aren't on the couch. Today, I had the privilege of doing some service work out in Crissy Field with a group of young people who represent Student Conservation Association and a number of other youth conservation course from throughout the Bay Area. And these are young people that are absolutely not on the couch. They are making your public lands better for everybody.
So, I am part — I don't want to make assumptions about you, Greg, but I'm part of the baby boom generation. We are, as a generation, 76 million strong. The largest generation in the history of the United States is not us; it's the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1995 and they are already three million larger then we are, 76 million.
And they care about the environment, and they care about the planet and they want — they're worried about the situation that's in it and they want to be part of the solution. And the young people I work with today are being part of the solution and part of what I can do, as Secretary of the Interior, is use the megaphone that comes with this job to make sure that young people know that we welcome them on our public lands, all of them, that public lands can be theirs, they are not scary places. They are places to be embraced. They are places that are important for water quality and clean air and breathing space. And so the opportunity that we have at Interior, I think, is to make those public lands accessible and work alongside cities like San Francisco and Oakland and other cities around the Bay Area but a number throughout the country to make sure that we're highlighting the importance of public lands close to home as well as far away.
Greg Dalton: And some of the things you outlined were educational opportunities for our students K through 12 and one million volunteers on public lands by 2017. How can you fund these new things when Congress doesn't want to give you any money?
Sally Jewell: Well, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a huge, huge effort during the Great Depression, much worse economic times than we're dealing with now. And it was important to the American people to give young people jobs, who were unemployed or underemployed, to put them to work on public lands that needed their support, and we are still the beneficiaries of the hard work and the support that these young men, from all over the country, got from their federal government, recognizing the importance of work and the importance of public land stewardship. And there are examples, coast to coast, North to South, of the work of the CCC.
Today, we don't view the federal government in the same way. And so what's the CCC 2.0?
And our answer to that is what we're calling the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps or 21CSC. And the difference is engagement with the private sector; engagement with local cities and the counties and states, as well as the federal government; engagement with businesses. So today, we had a round table discussion that included a number of enlightened businesses. Businesses like American Eagle Outfitters that is a national sponsor of the Student Conservation Association, or CamelBak, which makes hydration for the outdoor industry, or Sutter Health and my former colleague from the area I board, Steve Lockhart, who's in the audience here with his family. These are enlightened individuals that represent businesses that want to be part of the solution. There's organizations represented here tonight like the Nature Conservancy or the Trust for Public Land or the Student Conservation Association and youth course around.
So the difference between the CCC back in the 30s and what we're doing with the 21CSC today, is it's far more holistic. It's involving volunteers. The military is probably not going to sign up to pay for all these which they played a major role in the 30s, but veterans who are returning, who know how to camp, they know logistics, they know organization, they know leadership. There's nothing like the outdoors and working on public lands to heal some of the scars that wars dish out to our troops.
And so the 21CSC will be about veterans, it will be around youth, it will be around engaging the business community, engaging the non-profit community, and we'd like to see millions out volunteering on public lands.
Greg Dalton: San Francisco is unique in the sense that it does have a national park, basically within the city boundaries and a lot of national lands nearby, but the traditional model is Yellowstone, Yosemite, these grand monuments where people have to travel a great distance, to a lot of people these days can’t afford to get there.
So you mentioned urban parks as part of your vision to bring parks to the people rather than people to the parks, more urban parks, closer to the population centers?
Sally Jewell: It's certainly critical that urban parks be part of an equation of public lands, whether they're federally owned urban parks, as you have here with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You felt the shutdown, right? When your urban parks are run by the federal government, you feel it, and if there's a silver lining to the shutdown, it is that people had a much better appreciation of how much they use and enjoy these lands. But it also — part of our vision is to work closely with 50 cities across the country in engaging more children and having opportunities to play and learn on public lands, whether or not they're federal.
There are a couple of programs that have been quite successful. There are urban parks program, UPARR it's called. It is something that's in the president's budget that has really helped us bring resources and knowledge from the federal government to support work on urban parks that are owned by cities and counties and state
There is the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, again expertise coming for trails and bike paths and other things that connect people to nature, not necessarily on public lands. And then, of course, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which took revenue from oil and gas sales offshore and brought that to bear in supporting public lands at every level. And it's those kinds of programs that we can work with urban parks, whether they're federal or local, to make sure that children have places to play and to learn, and to eventually serve, and hopefully also to work.
Greg Dalton: Is that Land and Water Conservation Fund currently funded?
Sally Jewell: The Land and Water Conservation Fund is appropriated by Congress. So it was an early example of brilliance in terms of — if you're going to allow development of offshore oil and gas, it's going to have an impact, and don't we know that after the Macondo spill.
But we can take some of the money from that oil and gas development and use it to support conservation objectives onshore. And so that was 1964. It's coming up on its 50th anniversary next year, and it is very important that we continue to support that in the future. It is only once been funded at the full — appropriated at the full level of funding. Roughly, $900 million a year is generated and only once has it been funded at that level.
So the funds were coming in to the Treasury, but they aren't being appropriated by Congress. In the president's budget for 2014, we asked for mandatory funding for half of the allocation and in the — with full funding requested for 2015. That would make an enormous difference in our ability to help urban areas, rural areas, national parks, local parks, do the job that they need to do, and engage more young people.
Greg Dalton: There's a Republican senator, Tom Coburn, who's been — did a report on the national park systems, says there's close to $3 billion of deferred maintenance at the top 10 national parks and says that some new parks have very few visitors. So I'd like to hear your thought on — as CEO of REI, if something didn't sell, maybe you wouldn't carry that product. What do you do with the parks that not many people go to and deferred maintenance at some of the keystone parks on this system?
Sally Jewell: Well, they point out that deferred maintenance is solved by funding our national parks at an appropriate level. By passing a budget for this government where we, who are charged with managing assets in perpetuity, can actually operate on something more than a month-to-month continuing resolution or a sequester which is, as a businessperson, the dumbest way to run anything.
And Congress dished that out to us, as well as the kinds of impact that we had from a 16-day completely wasteful government shutdown that caused us more money. So we could start by being rational about how we spend the money that we have, and many of those same legislators who criticize us for not taking care of the assets we have in public will ask me in private for a national park in their district.
So, the reality is, people love their public lands and they want them to be taken care of. You see parks levies passed in states, you see them passed in cities, people care about these things. It's about quality of life. It's about healthy children. It's about healthy watersheds. So I don't think that the argument is fair. I will also say that, our charge is not to operate parks as businesses. Our charge is to really tell the story of America, to protect the history and the culture of this land and those places that are too special to develop, whether or not they have a lot of visitors, as you have in a place like Yosemite, or whether they have limited visitors.
Our job is not to drive or return on that investment, even though we do. Our job is to protect these assets in perpetuity for, not just this generation, but future generations, and to take care of these assets. Thank you.
Greg Dalton: The National Park System is coming up on its 100th anniversary. What kind of birthday party you got planned?
Sally Jewell: [Laughing] Well, the best birthday present we could get is a budget that supports the park service. So nothing better than that.
There's a lot of work that's been going on with organizations like the National Park Foundation, which was stood up by Congress as a non-profit organization to support the national parks. The National Parks Conservation Association is active in this.
National Park's Friends Groups that are all over the country are working to support their parks. And while private philanthropy should be the margin of excellence, not the margin of survival, and, unfortunately, in many of our parks, private philanthropy has become a margin of survival because of what's happened with some of the challenges, the cuts that we've had.
But we don't want the centennial to go by without really putting our national parks on people's radar and using the national parks as a way to celebrate all parks and all open space. As we talk about the importance of urban parks, you will see the National Park Service leverage, the message around the national park centennial to support local parks, whether they have an affiliation or don't have an affiliation. It's a very, very important opportunity.
So there's a lot of work going on, a lot of work focusing on the millennial generation and younger. A call to action to get young people into the parks and, frankly, a call to action to the park service itself to structure itself for the 21st century.
Greg Dalton: You mentioned parks in the context of fitness and outdoors. A lot of times, people go to the parks and there's been some thought recently about the food that's served in the parks. You go to a park, great outdoors, healthy and you got chili cheese fries and burgers and that sort of thing. Is that on your radar? And also aligning those, the health of the food that's served and the recreation?
Sally Jewell: So, Greg, you have not been to a park recently?
Greg Dalton: I've been to a lot of them.
Sally Jewell: Have you –
Greg Dalton: Well, I don't care — once here in San Francisco doesn't count because there's the bubble. I mean, I've been to the Tetons and other places, but –
Sally Jewell: Well, I shouldn't be putting you on the spot. That's your job.
Greg Dalton: That's right.
Sally Jewell: But [Laughter] — so the major concessionaires in the national parks have stepped up with a healthy food initiative, and they've got great food now available in national parks.
Now, if you want the chili cheeseburger, you can probably still get it, because there is the law of supply and demand, and there still is a demand for those things. But the large concessionaires who've got the major contracts in the larger national park facilities have all partnered on local food, on healthy food, on food choices, on vegetarian choices. We rule this out on the national mall, just after I started in this job actually so I got to go down and eat all those incredible foods on the mall produced by these wonderful concessionaires, and they're rolling it out throughout. Because you're right, when you are about health, when the only options you can get are unhealthy options, especially for young people, that's kind of sending a mixed signal. So I think you'll find, if you look to your food choices, are much broader, at least in the bigger national parks than they ever have been before.
Greg Dalton: If you're just joining us, our guest today at the Commonwealth Club of California is Sally Jewel, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. I'm Greg Dalton.
You clearly are an avid outdoors enthusiast and have travelled to Hawaii, Alaska, the Pacific Islands. What impacts of climate change have you seen?
Sally Jewell: Every place I've gone, the impact of climate change has been very evident. Here in California, you've got a problem with water. I hope you know that. I hope you use as little of it as possible, and that you appreciate just how critical it is to everything that we are, as a people — well, 98 percent of us, right?
I had one trip that actually took me from 77 degrees north latitude to 7 degrees north latitude. Seventy-seven degrees is Barrow, Alaska, 7 degrees is the Marshall Islands. In Kaktovik, Alaska which is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a village that — they are having their runway washed away because of coastal erosion. That's happening in large measure because the pack ice is moving out sooner, and you've got a lot more battery from waves. I saw along the coast, erosion that was dramatic. Huge chunks of ice between the layer of soil and the layer of grounds, all big chunk of ice. As that's exposed, as it melts, you're going to see local wetlands there that are critical habitat drain. So the runway in Kaktovik is being moved because the current runway is washing away. I saw — I personally counted 29 polar bears near the runway in Kaktovik. So why are the bears there? They would normally be on the ice, but as the ice moves farther out, it's moved them more to shore.
Seven degrees north latitude, the Marshall Islands, the highest point in the Marshall Islands is the bridge between two islands and it's 30-feet tall. It's a coral atoll in the Pacific. It was critical to the United States during World War II. That's why we have an ongoing relationship with the Marshall Islands. And why I was there. The Marshall Islands' average height can't be more than about 10 feet, maybe 15. It won't be there with sea level rise. The runway that I landed on in the Marshall Islands in Majuro was also washing away because of coastal erosion. So there were sandbags along the side of that runway to mitigate the erosion.
Climate change is everywhere. We see invasive species throughout the grasslands and the plains. We see hotter wildfires, and don't you know about that in California? Wildfires that are so hot they kill everything. They'll turn some of the soil into a glass, not something that you can naturally recover from. So it's very real. And for those of you that enjoy the landscapes and get out on the landscapes, you see it and you feel it. And one of the reasons I was delighted, when I got the call for this job is, this is a job where you actually have an opportunity to do something about it and it's important for all of us to do something, our own part in whatever we can do. So it’s big.
Greg Dalton: What can an average person do to combat climate change? It seems so big that many people wonder, "What can I do that has an impact?"
Sally Jewell: Well, there is the small things, which is, the best electron is the one you don't use to begin with, the best drop of water is the one that you don't waste, and the best drop of gasoline is the one that you don't burn to begin with. So I think we all play a role in terms of our lifestyles, how we live our lives, how we use our resources and how we conserve our resources. So conservation is really critical.
But the other thing I would say is your voices are important as citizens of this great democracy. And when you bring your voices to my new home of Washington, D.C., they do make a difference. When you cast a ballot at a ballot box here, you need to make sure that the people that represent you align with the things that are important to you. So, are they addressing the issues that you care about most around water conservation, water recycling and reuse in California, wildfire mitigation, taking care of public lands? Looking for ways to incent the right kinds of behavior.
I'm a businessperson. I did business for 35 years. I've been a public servant for six months. In the business community, you can — you will change your behavior based on the incentives that you're given by the policies that are set by elected officials. So in California, you have a renewable energy requirement for the state of 33 percent. That drives a market for renewable energy that creates demand for — well, it creates demand, the supply then comes to fill that demand.
As a land management agency, we're part of supporting that. You can make decisions with your policies and the people that you elect to represent you that actually will affect the outcome of climate change. So I would encourage all of you to be active in doing that, and all of you to consider providing support to the kinds of things that will actually provide a financial equation that will get — drive companies to do the right thing that aligns with what you want to do from a climate change standpoint as well.
Greg Dalton: President Obama outlined his climate plan earlier this year in a speech in Washington where he was very — on a very hot day. How is that coming on? Is that real or is that a lot of speeches a lot of presidents make pronouncements and then, time goes by and not a lot happens? What's really happening with that plan?
Sally Jewell: Oh, it's very real and I'm very proud to work for President Obama and proud of the speech that he gave. And, yes, I was in the front row in a black dress, which I had to go straight to the cleaners because it was soaked. That was a very, very hot day. Probably good, though, when you're talking about climate change.
So he has charged the Department of the Interior with doubling the permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands. He laid out a goal of 10,000 megawatts of electricity generation on public lands by 2015. We've already beaten that goal so he doubled it to 20,000 megawatts by 2020. We will be on our — well on our way to achieving that goal, working alongside industry and environmentalists in the community. So that's one tangible that's going on. He has used the megaphone very loudly to say, you know, we're no longer debating climate change. It is here. We must do something about it.
So, the other thing I would say that you will see impact everything that we do is to think through the lens of climate change. How do we prepare for it?
How do we mitigate for it? How do we adapt our landscapes to it? So there was a pretty bad storm a year and a few days ago in the East Coast. I have been to wildlife refuges that were filled with 22 miles of debris from super storm Sandy. That's the bad news. There were boats, there were propane tanks, there were refrigerators, all kinds of stuff washed up on your shores at the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. But that shore protected — that wetlands protected buildings and residences inland by taking the storm's fury. And you know what? We're cleaning it up but we also learn from Mother Nature and know that when we protect our shorelines, by learning from Mother Nature, whether it's dunes or grasses or mangrove swamps in the south, that we are adapting ourselves and our landscapes to climate change.
So the president has charged us, we'll do that — we're doing that. There's a lot of support in the Hurricane Sandy package that enables us to do that. We've put out $100 million competitive grant process from the Department of the Interior to generate innovative ideas in mitigating against climate change that we can use learning the lessons from Hurricane Sandy. So those are just a handful of things, but every one of the departments is charged with doing their part.
Greg Dalton: We're talking at the Commonwealth Club with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. I'm Greg Dalton.
Can the administration, though, be a real serious climate leader, and also promote more coal extraction, more oil drilling, at some point, isn't there either/or such a situation? Can it have it both ways? More energy, more carbon, more hydrocarbons and say we're serious about climate?
Sally Jewell: Well, the short answer is, you can't go immediately from one source of energy to another source of energy overnight. We have grown this country with the support of carbon pollution, whether it was coal or oil and gas, that has been a large measure what has driven the industry in this country, and you can't turn it off in a heartbeat.
The president, through the EPA, has instituted CAFE standards for cars that will make an enormous difference in terms of using policy to reduce carbon pollution. That's a very, very important step forward. So its policies that drive behaviors by the automobile industry that increase the fuel economy of cars and, therefore, reduce the amount that we use. And states consider driving behaviors through their own mechanisms around taxing to try and change behaviors.
So, there is still –
Greg Dalton: That's what happens — stationary power sources, coal plants is the next thing that might happen there.
Sally Jewell: That's right. The EPA has been discussing rules around air quality that will certainly impact coal-fired power plants in terms of the expectations of what they need to do to clean up the air emissions. The U.S. Geological Survey published a study not too long ago about carbon capture and sequestration, which is supplying technologies to potentially re-inject the carbon into the earth.
We can't switch from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy economy overnight. So, yes, we're going to still continue to develop those resources, but we're also going to stand up renewable resources and we have to do both if we're going to have an economy, if we're going to continue to grow and develop as a country, and provide opportunities for the young people. So it's important that we do both.
Greg Dalton: One phrase that's often talked about is energy independence. “We're going to be energy independent,” that's very popular; it has bipartisan support who likes the idea of energy independence.
But you've worked in the energy industry, is it really possible to be energy independent? And what's really important is price independence. Even if the U.S. could supply its energy needs, the price would be set globally and we would never really become price independent, which is what matters. We can't drill our way to lower energy prices. Is that right?
Sally Jewell: Well, it's — you know, oil and gas is a commodity and it is priced on the world market. And so you can — so that if we have an energy boom here and it lowers the price, that might affect the supply and demand equation that might affect worldwide prices. We don't really control that. I mean, other countries control what people pay for, gas with taxes and other forms of impacts. But, basically, the price, it's a worldwide commodity price.
Energy independence though does enable us to be independent of other countries on whom we are now dependent. When you look at the conflict in the Middle East then you look at our dependents on oil that flows from the Middle East, it's worrisome. It's caused a lot of loss of life. It's caused a lot of conflict around the world and so — to the extent that we have an opportunity to shape our own energy future, that's a good thing, and the president believes it's a good thing as well.
Greg Dalton: If the president called you and said, "Sally, what should I do about Keystone XL," what would you say?
Sally Jewell: I'd say you should call John Kerry because it's an international issue. [Laughing] It actually — because it is between Canada and the United States, the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is with the Department of State, so it will run across some federal lands.
If it goes forward, we will do our part as the Department of the Interior, but I'm not in the middle of that discussion.
Greg Dalton: Well, you don't have to decide. Fracking for natural gas and a little bit for oil is a very big topic these days. In recent elections in Colorado, a couple of small towns passed a ban on fracking. In Ohio, voters rejected two bans on fracking in Youngstown and Bowling Green. But it’s something like 100 municipalities have some kind of ban or moratorium on fracking, there's a fair amount of fracking, it could happen on federal lands that you oversee. Are you satisfied with the current guidelines and regulations of fracking?
Sally Jewell: So there's a lot of misinformation about fracking. And how many people in the room here have fracked a well before? One, one besides me.
Greg Dalton: Another one, yes.
Sally Jewell: Okay.
Greg Dalton: You did it with your hands, right?
Sally Jewell: Yes, I've fracked with my hands. No. I wouldn't do it with my hands. But fracking has been around for decades. And there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there about it, a lot of theory that I think is unfounded, but, also, an opportunity for the industry to be far more transparent and open and explain the practice so that there isn't as much misinformation.
Fracking has been a common technique for what you call well completions, which is you drill a well and then you have to get through the pipes and everything into where the oil or gas is. And so you puncture the pipe and you push some fluid in there with what's called proppant, which is sand to hold open the cracks so that the oil and gas can flow back, been done for years.
There is new techniques in fracking which is done horizontally — the well is drilled horizontally and it's fracked in stages and it's enabling people to extract oil and gas from very, very tight formations that otherwise be like rock.
It is important that we do these things safely and responsibly, and part of my job is to make sure that on federal lands, we have regulations in place that ensure that we are applying the best available science, the best available technology monitoring to ensure that we are not impacting ground water or other resources.
So the Bureau of Land Management has had a draft fracking rule in place. They put it out last year, got a lot of comments, put out a second rule, got a lot of comments, 1.3 million to be exact, which the period for that closed in August where, readings through all of those, some are formed comments but others are custom, I guess you'd say, and very thoughtful and very complicated. So we're digesting that and we will be coming out with some regulations for fracking on public lands which will be the minimum standard. And if states choose to have tougher standards than on public lands, we will apply those state standards in the states we operate. But the reality is, this is new for a lot of states. Some states have no regulations, some have very sophisticated regulations and we want to make sure that on public lands, we have a very good baseline regulations that the public can feel good about in terms of making sure that it's being done safely and responsibly and not running the risk of impacting water supplies or otherwise.
Greg Dalton: Senator Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, which there's a lot of fracking happening there, has a bill that would propose closing the Halliburton Loophole, but which exempts fracking from the Clean Drinking Water Act. What do you think about that? Is that something the administration supports?
Sally Jewell: I'm not familiar with the specific rule that you're talking about.
Greg Dalton: But are you familiar with the fracking as an exempt from the Clean Water Drinking Act, that's the Halliburton Loophole so that a lot of the regular things that apply to industrial contamination of water supplies doesn't apply to fracking?
Sally Jewell: So I'm not intimately familiar with that because it's EPA's jurisdiction. Gina McCarthy head a EPA, who’s a fantastic person, by the way, and I have talked about this, and what she is doing to ensure that, from a regulatory standpoint, that loopholes and things are cleaned up. But I can't speak specifically to that.
Greg Dalton: The Inspector-General of the Department of Interior recently issued a report that was pointing out some weaknesses in the pricing of coal extracted from public lands saying that it didn't really take account of export markets, a lot of the coal that is being exported now because there is dropping demand in the United States.
So what can you say to taxpayers who want to make sure they're getting a fair deal on coal extracted from public lands that their royalties are being paid and they're being paid fully?
Sally Jewell: I think it's absolutely critical that, as a steward of your public lands, that you get a fair return on the investment that you have and that we hold developers accountable for what they are extracting and what they're paying and make sure that they're paying a fair price.
So we have a group called the Office of Natural Resources Revenue that does exactly that. The IG's report that we had on that did show that we had an opportunity to investigate and make sure we were holding developers accountable and that's what we're doing. So I feel good about their work.
Greg Dalton: Should wolves be de-listed from the Endangered Species Act?
Sally Jewell: The Fish and Wildlife Service which oversees the Endangered Species Act says yes, and that wolves are a specie that conjures up very strong feelings, people who really love wolves and people who really don't love wolves.
And the fact is, the Endangered Species Act protects species that are in danger of going extinct. And Fish and Wildlife Service is confident that the wolves are no longer in danger of going extinct, and so they have recommended de-listing the wolves and it's in the comment period right now.
So I support their position. What happens when you do a de-listing of something like the gray wolf is management of the specie then goes to the states. Guarantee you, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be watching carefully, the states regulations will be providing support where they can to assist the states in thoughtful wolf management plans, but if there is a problem, they will intervene as they have before.
So, while the wolf has not got back to its historic range, it is no longer at risk of going extinct and, therefore, it's a candidate for de-listing.
Greg Dalton: We talked about water earlier. California is very aware of its water stress. Climate change predicted have less snow pack, et cetera. You also have the Bureau of Reclamation, a lot of water management. What is the federal government going to do? In the past, it's been about increasing water supply and more dams more concrete. The future may be very different. How are you going to approach that water management?
Sally Jewell: One of the priorities I laid out for the Department of the Interior had to do with sustainable secured water supplies and healthy water sheds. And California is a place where this is very, very critical. You have had challenges in your snow pack.
I come from the Pacific Northwest. Our reservoirs are called “snow pack”, and they have been diminishing just as yours have. We don't have enough storage capacity to take liquid water and hold it to make up for what you hold in the Sierra’s and snow, and you haven't had enough snow to deal with that.
So we've got a crisis. Got a crisis going on in the Bay Delta. We have the United States fruit basket and nut basket, not intended to be fruits and nuts in any way, other than that's what you produce in Central Valley in large quantities, very, very important agricultural supply but uses a lot of water. You have municipal needs here. You have an ecosystem that if we don't provide sufficient water to support the ecosystem, you could have an ecosystem collapse here in California. That's how serious it is within the Bay Delta.
The Bureau of Reclamation is a critical player. The state is a critical player. Water rights are managed by states. Federal government has a role to play as a water supplier to states and municipalities. And we are at the table. We're keeping people to the table, working closely on things like the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that's trying to manage agricultural interests, municipal interests, species interests, at a time when the water resources are going down.
So I do have one recommendation for all of you, and I brought this with me from REI, which is, this time of the year to bring on snow because REI's business was very dependent on snow sports in the winter time, we used to Twinkies and burn them to a crisp. [Laughter]
So I would encourage you to burn Twinkies. Even though it doesn't help carbon, it does produce carbon. But that did bring on snow. And I know, visiting an REI store earlier this week in Minnesota, that they'd had their Twinkie roast and so — and it was snowing the day I left Minnesota. So I don't know what you do in California, but whether it's Twinkie roast or rain dances, you need some rain, but you also need thoughtful planning and we will be at your side through the Bureau of Reclamation to do that.
Might I also just to say that, I've been operating without a deputy since David Hayes left and came here to Stanford and Hewlett Foundation. Darn him, but he's been in this forum before. He's a great guy, really knowledgeable in water issues. But his replacement, who is going through the senate process right now and we hope will be confirmed soon is a fellow named Mike Connor, and his specialty is water. Indian Water Rights Settlements, Colorado River, Bay Delta, he knows his stuff on water which I'm very grateful for because this is going to be big during the time that I'm in this job, and, if you're not worried about it, you should be in California.
Greg Dalton: Some dams have come down. Will more dams come down?
Sally Jewell: Well, I was at the USGS yesterday in Menlo Park and had a briefing on the Elwha Dam removal on my home state of Washington. These are old dams. I've been there. You actually can look down off the original Elwha Dam and see salmon red, waiting to go up the river, bouncing their noses literally off the face of the dam. It just breaks your heart.
That dam is now gone. The silt that's built up behind it is now washing out and rebuilding the mouth, which is very, very critical to the Indian tribes that are in that area and it's a real success story. And I think that dams like the Glen's Canyon and the Elwha Dam need to be removed. Very, very expensive, special appropriations from the federal government to do that, not something you're going to do without special support, but dams are also important to our hydroelectric supply. They are important to your water. You wouldn't have the kind of water that you have here now if it wasn't for dams and reservoirs and storage.
So I would say that, you will have some dams come down when they need to. You'll have some low head hydro put in that produces hydroelectricity without dams. We'll see that as well. I don't think you'll see wholesale removals but I do think you'll see a better understanding of the positives and the negatives of dams and when removal is justified, you'll see some things like the Elwha happen in other areas as well.
Greg Dalton: Our guest today at the Commonwealth Club is U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. I'm Greg Dalton.
Let's turn to the audience questions. Welcome to Climate One.
Female Participant: Hi. Another aspect of getting people in the parks is recreation. The GGNRA was created to quote, "Expand to the maximum extent possible. The outdoor recreation opportunities available to the region are all about recreation." Now, they are changing their plans and their management plan is to manage their lands including land in San Francisco for the back-country visitor experience, which data finds as being low visitor use, controlled access, few amenities and where I quote, "Challenge risk and testing of outdoor skills would be important to most visitors." And this is forefronts in Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, basically –
Greg Dalton: And your question is?
Female Participant: The question is, what are you going to do to help us preserve traditional recreation in the urban parks that are the GGNRA and keep people going and using them?
Greg Dalton: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area?
Sally Jewell: Yes. Okay. So I'm not familiar with what you were citing in terms of the policies. But I will say that recreation is a very important component to public lands. It does engage people in. That was a business that I came from most recently, $646 billion industry that supports 6.1 million jobs. So it's a very important part of it, but recreation has its impacts and so balanced use is really thoughtful — is really important.
National parks are not just for this generation, but they are for future generations. They are lands that are to be managed in perpetuity, and sometimes we can love and recreate our lands to death, so having a good a balance is important.
Greg Dalton: And I'll offer a tip to the audience that we take these and then we edit them a little bit before we put them on the radio and the long questions get cut out. So the shorter your question, the better chance it is — yes, okay, welcome to Climate One.
Female Participant: Thank you. My question is also about recreation. A week ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution opposing the National Park Service preferred alternative for dog management in the GGNRA. The supervisors urged the GGNRA to permit greater access to traditional recreation, such as dog walking, which has been there for many decades. Given the need for recreation, supported also by the National Parks Services on Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative, will you reconsider the dog management plan which is opposed by the very city in which it is supposed to be implemented and also by more than three to one of those who commented on the initial plan?
Sally Jewell: So I'm a dog owner myself, love the places where I can take my dog out, but I also know that some people don't love dogs in the same way. And I think what the park service is trying to do is strike a healthy balance between those who like to have their pets with them and those who may be afraid, allergic or otherwise to pets and to manage the land, recognizing those multiple uses.
So I'm not familiar, as you might expect, with the details of the dog management plan and the GGNRA, but I know that that's what the balance that they're trying to strike. So people are passionate about their pets, and I understand that. We want to be accommodating, but we also want to accommodate all guests and make sure that the visitor experience is positive and, sometimes that means compromise.
Greg Dalton: Let’s have our next question for Secretary Jewell at Climate One.
Male Participant: Hi, Secretary Jewell. Thank you for being here today.
I just wanted to bring up the coal-leasing plan under the Bureau of Land Management. I appreciate the Department of Interior's leadership in ramping up renewable energy production, but I'm worried that the leasing of coal, by undermining the president's climate action plan, it unlocks billions of tons of carbon pollution from selling publicly owned coal at subsidized prices.
So can you, Secretary Jewell, commit to a moratorium on new leased coal in order to avoid undermining the president's climate plan?
Sally Jewell: Well, the short answer is, no, I'm not going to call for a moratorium. We did have a coal lease sale recently at the Bureau of Land Management and no one bid on the coal. So the market is speaking. And as rules and regulations like the ones discussed by the EPA are put in place, it will change the economics of coal. And so, we will continue to support development of the resources in a way that supports what's important to the American people. But when nobody bids on the coal, the coal stays on the ground.
Greg Dalton: Let's have our next question for Secretary Jewell.
Debra Barbarick: Hi. My name is Debra Barbarick. I work for an interior agency. And I wanted to thank you so much for your advocacy and your encouragement, especially during the shutdown.
My question has to do with renewable energy on the ground here in California. I'm sure you are very aware that there are proposals for renewable energy projects that are visible for national parks would be cited on the Bureau of Land Management land and may involve threatening any endangered species which, of course, involves the Fish and Wildlife Agency. Do you have any insight on how to balance the agency demands?
Sally Jewell: The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is a plan in process between the state of California, the departments — the bureaus within the Department of the Interior, a number of non-profit organizations, community organizations, and it's a great illustration of landscaped level conservation which is something that I've called for in my first secretarial order. It's about energy development being mitigated on a landscape level.
I have two friends, personal friends, that have been counting tortoises in the Mojave Desert for several years, long before I took this job. There is a lot of science going on in the ground to understand what is the critical habitat for threatened species like the desert tortoise. What are the areas of highest potential? Where is the transmission corridors? What are the impacts visually from a place like a national park?
And those things are all being taken into account. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and others, Audobon, at the table, making these kinds of decisions. Wind energy, what's the impact on birds? Where is the migration corridor? What do you — what can you do to mitigate the impact like shutting turbines down when you detect birds in the area? All of these things are happening, but nothing is free. And if we want to get away from carbon energy, wind energy and solar energy are important, but their impacts, we have to understand them, and we have to mitigate them and that's exactly what you are doing as pioneers here in California in the Mojave Desert. Thank you.
Greg Dalton: Let's have our next question for Secretary Jewell.
Male Participant: Is this administration prepared to accept the simple challenge to designate at least as many national monument acres as the Clinton administration?
Greg Dalton: And to use the Antiquities Act to do it?
Sally Jewell: We don't think that acre is the right measure. There are great opportunities to set lands aside. There are several dozen bills in Congress that have stalled out and gone nowhere. This president signed the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009, setting aside the tremendous number of acres, millions of acres that had stalled out in Congress and got through. We need to take Congressional action and get things moving by elected officials that care and can bring the perspectives of their districts to bear. So that's number one priority.
I said in my speech a week ago that we want Congress to act. We want the people to speak through their elected officials, but if they don't, the Obama administration is willing to use the tools in its toolbox to act, including the Antiquities Act.
We want to make sure that the right lands are set aside that need to be set aside. It's not about acres. It's not about quantity. It's about quality and it's about working with those areas where there's great community support because you know your lands better than somebody sitting in Washington, D.C. does, and that's what's going to drive our actions.
Greg Dalton: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where you used to live, wrote a column recently that said the Obama White House approach on conservation was, “don't bother us,” that they wanted unanimity but no political cause. So I just want to come back a little bit and say, is there — are you doing enough to sort of go after some of these land offsets or conservation ties?
Sally Jewell: I think that, I've had nothing but support from my boss and the administration broadly on the conservation agenda. There's tremendous interest in doing what's right for the American people as it relates to conservation. And, really, the president is looking for people like myself and Tom Vilsack who oversees the U.S. Forest Service to identify opportunities for conservation. So we've had nothing but support to do that.
We do have a great opportunity. And I use the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it's a great illustration of 50 years ago, the foresight people to take revenues from offshore oil and gas production and turn them into important conservation objectives onshore. That is a blunt instrument. A sharper instrument is to say, how do we like we're doing in the national patrol and reserve in Alaska, makes 72 percent of the recoverable — economically recoverable oil available but set aside 50 percent of the land because it's critical for habitat. That's the kind of thoughtful landscape level approach that we're using, and we certainly got support from the administration.
Greg Dalton: Thank you. Let's have our next question for U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Welcome.
Male Participant: All right. Thank you. You've established yourself as a businesswoman who understands the need to adapt to climate change or, excuse me, fight climate change. And the challenge in making that transition, so I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you support the price on carbon. Your boss hasn't been quite so clear about that. You in your unique position as Secretary of the Interior, how can you get President Obama to aggressively push for a price on carbon?
Sally Jewell: The president has made it very clear that carbon pollution is an issue. And our focus in the administration is about reducing carbon pollution. There are ways to do that, but will require Congressional action. There's a lot of opportunity in the areas we control, like regulation of carbon, like the CAFE standards on cars, like standing up renewable energy projects, and that's been our focus.
Greg Dalton: Thank you. Let's have our next question. Climate One, welcome.
Female Participant: Hi. Thank you.
My question is concerned with the use of the tropic lands for wildlife versus ranch use, and specifically, for the wild horses in the burrows that are being rounded up. I've been reading a lot about that lately and everywhere I read, the BLM is demonized incredibly and mistrusted. And I just want you to speak to what is the truth about what's going on with that.
Sally Jewell: Thanks for the question.
Wild horses in burrows do generate a lot of passion on both sides of the equation. So I think it's back in the 70s, a law was passed supporting wild horses on public lands. And the challenge that the BLM has had over time is that, wild horses are good proliferators. They double — herd doubles in size every three and a half years. So we're now at a situation where our public lands are beyond their carrying capacity, without having significant impacts. The BLM has tried a variety of different mechanisms to keep the herd size in check. Birth control. Lot less control over veterinary pharmaceuticals and there are — where human pharmaceuticals and they've had varied results, because the formulations are, in fact, different. So they have done roundups and they've taken wild horses in burrows and they put them in holding facilities, because the land carrying capacity is not there and the herds are growing.
The National Academy of Sciences was commissioned to do some — a study on behalf of the BLM to understand this issue better. They validated that the herd size does in fact double every three and a half years. They recommended birth control as a viable method, but they didn't talk about how to do it in a cost-effective way and in a pharmaceutically effective way.
So, short answer is we would love support from the pharmaceutical industry and the veterinary industry to come up with a reliable way of providing birth control that is also affordable to the American taxpayer, because we're really in a very, very difficult situation now. Some 30 years, plus 40 years after this law passed that we don't have the carrying capacity for all the wild horses in burrows on the lands that we have. So that's it. Thank you.
Greg Dalton: We have time for one or two more questions. Yes, welcome to Climate One.
Female Participant: Hi. Thank you for your comments on coal. But how can we, on one hand, say that we have a moral imperative to tackle climate change, and on the other hand, still pursue new federal coal leasing? And especially leases where there are only one bidder, and they walk out with coal at $1.11 a ton? Is there a way that we can stop that kind of leasing on federal land?
Greg Dalton: Thank you.
Sally Jewell: You know, we could certainly look at the return that we get as a federal land management firm. That's our agency. That is what the Office of Natural Resources Revenue and the BLM work in concert to do. I think it's a fair point.
I also know that, we can't shut off coal. I'm sure that the lights in my office in Washington, D.C. are powered by coal because that is largely what powers large parts of the eastern seaboard. You can't just shut it off and it's important that we make that resource available. It's also important that we encourage new resources. So, I think, you raised a fair point, but I will also say that we've had coal lease sales where there've been no bidders, as I mentioned earlier.
Greg Dalton: Welcome to Climate One. Yes.
Female Participant: Thank you. Ms. Secretary, considering that you've been winded on the job a short time, you're incredibly well versed in a number of issues. I appreciate that.
My question hearkens back to your original statement regarding the Civilian Conservation Corps and how important the CCC was in the 1930s to our parks and public lands. You described kind of a CCC 2.0, but you described it as a volunteer program. And I just wanted to point out that the CCC in the 1930s was actually an economic stimulus package that provided jobs and paid young people to work and some of that money went back to the local economies and help stimulate the U.S. economy out of the depression. And I'm just wondering if you could, perhaps flesh out the ideas for this CCC 2.0 and how you see it rolling out.
Sally Jewell: Okay. On 30 seconds.
Greg Dalton: That's right.
Sally Jewell: Okay. So, short answer is you're absolutely right. Young people I worked alongside today were getting job skills and will get job opportunities as a result of that. There are many young people who are employed by organizations like the Student Conservation Association that rally volunteers. So it's an opportunity to both provide jobs, but also leverage those who have jobs to those that are working as volunteers and are building job skills that will make them available to — or make them qualify to take jobs in the future.
So it's a way we can expand it in a large way. But you're right. It has to be a blend. And one of the goals that I didn't mention was 100,000 jobs over four years in federal land management agencies going to young people and veterans who represent also this millennial generation. So we were going to create jobs ourselves. We're also raising $20 million from the private sector to help support this program, and we think that there are a number of businesses that will be very willing to do that.
So you're absolutely right. Money in the pocket is important, but job skills are also important and we can do that with volunteers, as well as those that we can afford to pay.
Greg Dalton: I've been doing this quite a while and had a lot of high government officials here. That is the longest line we have ever had here at the Commonwealth Club. So, clearly, people care about what you're doing.
We'd like to thank U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for her comments here today at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club. I'm Greg Dalton. Thank you for being here and thank you for listening on the radio. Thank you.