Kenneth Salazar is currently a Partner with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Mr. Salazar provides legal, strategic and policy advice to national and international clients, particularly on matters at the intersection of law, business and public policy. He counsels firm clients by drawing on his deep experience in energy, environmental and natural resources, leads the firm’s efforts on tribal issues.
In December 2008, President Barack Obama selected then-US Senator Salazar to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of Interior. Mr. Salazar was confirmed as the 50th Secretary of the Interior by a unanimous US Senate vote on January 20, 2009. Prior to his confirmation, Mr. Salazar served as United States Senator for Colorado, winning the election in 2004 and serving on the Energy and Natural Resources and Finance Committees, which oversaw the nation’s energy, natural resources, tax, trade, social security and healthcare systems. He also served on the Agriculture, Ethics, Veterans Affairs and Aging Committees.
As Secretary, Mr. Salazar helped to lead the United States energy efforts in developing and implementing President Obama’s energy strategy. The effort included overseeing the exploration and development of conventional and renewable energy resources on the nation’s public lands and oceans, and working on matters relating to climate change, exploration of frontier areas like the Arctic, leading the successful response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, and overhauling the regulatory oversight of oil and gas exploration and production. He also created the five-year plan that governs the leasing for oil and exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic Seas.
During that time, Mr. Salazar also led the effort to permit more than 11,000 MW of power on public lands from solar, wind and geothermal sources (the equivalent of power from more than 30 regular power plants) and developed the blueprint for future siting and development of these resources, including high-priority transmission infrastructure projects. As part of his renewable energy efforts, he also created the first offshore wind energy plan for the Atlantic Ocean and awarded the first leases in American history for offshore wind projects.
As Secretary, Mr. Salazar also led the nation’s efforts on conservation, including the creation of 10 National Parks and 10 National Conservation and Wildlife Refuges, and organized more than 100 other conservation and preservation projects in the United States. He also led the successful resolution of bilateral conservation efforts with Mexico and Canada along the two borders and in the Arctic.
Mr. Salazar also led the President’s initiatives in creating a new chapter with the 566 Native American tribes and Alaska Natives. This effort included the resolution of longstanding conflicts like the Cobell litigation and numerous water rights settlements and permitting the first oil and gas refinery and solar projects in Indian country.
As Secretary, Mr. Salazar appeared before Committees of the United States Congress and provided testimony at more than 30 hearings.
As a U.S. Senator, Mr. Salazar served on key committees, including Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, Ethics and Veterans Affairs. Highlights of that service include the enactment of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Security Act, the 2007 Farm Bill, and the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. In each of these efforts, Mr. Salazar was a central player in putting together the successful bipartisan efforts that created the most significant energy legal framework in US history.
Mr. Salazar also helped lead a bipartisan group of Senators on comprehensive immigration reform, the only significant bipartisan legislative effort on ending the War in Iraq, and the beginning of healthcare reform, which was enacted into law in 2010. As a member of the Ethics Committee, Mr. Salazar was involved in reviewing and resolving ethics matters related to other United States Senators.
As Attorney General, Mr. Salazar served as the top legal officer for the State of Colorado and oversaw thousands of civil and criminal legal matters and investigations before state and federal courts, including the State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Salazar also exercised the exclusive authority to convene and present matters before the State Grand Jury.
Some of the notable matters investigated and reported on included sexual assault allegations against the University of Colorado football program, the homicide of a Native American young man in southwestern Colorado, the Jon Benet Ramsey homicide, and the review of numerous law enforcement matters relating to the Columbine High School killings. Mr. Salazar also led many investigations relating to securities fraud and consumer protection, including multistate securities fraud and consumer protection matters.
Finally, Mr. Salazar led the resolution of some of the most complex natural resource and environmental conflicts in Colorado history, including longstanding natural resource damage cases at places like the Summitville mine and other CERCLA cases that had been filed some 25 years earlier. As Attorney General, he was involved in several complex interstate water disputes in the United States Supreme Court.
From 1987 to 1994, Mr. Salazar served first as Chief Legal Counsel and then as Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Governor of Colorado.
As Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor, Mr. Salazar worked on all important matters to the State of Colorado, including economic development, crisis management, and appointments to all courts, including the Colorado Supreme Court. Mr. Salazar also oversaw the Governor’s efforts on criminal justice, corrections, parole and commutation matters.
As Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Mr. Salazar spearheaded all efforts on oil and gas, mineral, water, and conservation matters for the State of Colorado.
Besides his public sector experience, Mr. Salazar also has substantial experience in the private practice of law. He practiced natural resources and water law for 11 years in the major Denver law firms of Sherman & Howard and Parcel, Mauro, Hultin and Spaanstra. In his practice, Mr. Salazar represented ski areas, land developers, farmers and mining companies in both transactional and litigation matters. About 50 percent of his time was focused on addressing water rights matters.
Mr. Salazar received a JD degree from the University of Michigan and a political science degree from Colorado College. He later received honorary doctorates of law from Colorado College, the University of Denver and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.