Interior Secretary Nominee ‘Not Proud’ of ‘Commuting Footprint’ of REI Employees

By Penny Starr | February 7, 2013 | 2:30 PM EST

President Obama with Interior nominee Sally Jewell, at the White House. (AP photo)

( – Sally Jewell, the woman President Barack Obama has nominated to be the next Secretary of the Interior, said in a 2007 interview that she was “not proud of our employee commuting footprint” during her time at the helm of outdoor retailer REI.

“Is there anything you’re not proud of or you’re looking forward to changing soon?” a reporter with the environmental Web site asked Jewell, who was the CEO of REI at the time.

“I’m not proud of our employee commuting footprint,” Jewell said. “We’re sitting out here in an office park [in Kent, Wash.], in an area that used to be farmland, probably in a floodplain.

“And many people are driving single-occupancy vehicles to get in here,” Jewell said.

“I am proud of the fact that every single REI facility is set up for bike commuters with showers and some form of secure bike storage,” Jewell said. “That’s a step, but we have to get more creative on how we work and on facilitating telecommuting — maybe satellite [offices] where people can get to [that are] closer to home.”

Jewell also criticized the “REI Adventure” weekend travel trips that her company offered clients – trips which she and other employees took -- because of their “greenhouse-gas footprint.”

“One of the shockers to me is 26 percent of REI’s greenhouse-gas footprint is REI Adventure travel trips, like the one I’m about to take,” Jewell said.

“It’s almost as much as — or maybe it’s equal to — all of the electricity generated by all of our facilities. And that is, like, stunning.”

Jewell said she was committed to offsetting greenhouse-gas footprints through an arrangement between REI and Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

“So I did that personally when it was offered, and will continue to offset my personal footprint every year,” Jewell said. “And we went carbon neutral in REI Adventures with offsets, so anybody that travels with us in REI Adventures is already covered.

“But that doesn’t stop it from going in the atmosphere, that just offsets it,” Jewell said.

In his remarks nominating Jewell, whose career has also including working as an engineer for Mobil oil company and for two decades in banking, Obama praised her “expertise.”

“She is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future,” Obama said.

“Sally’s broad expertise and set of values I know are going to serve her well as she takes on these new challenges,” Obama said. “She's got a wonderful and supportive family who I understand enjoy the great outdoors just like she does.

“So they've got a vested interest in making sure that the Department of the Interior is doing the right thing,” Obama said.

Environmental groups also are praising Jewell, including Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, who said he hoped Jewell will protect the Arctic from “risky drilling” and “dirty and dangerous fracking.”

“We look forward to working closely with her to preserve more of those benefits and more of our natural heritage by designating new national monuments, protecting America’s Arctic from risky drilling, and keeping dirty and dangerous fracking out of our public lands,” Brune said.

If confirmed, the British-born Jewell would replace outgoing Interior Secy. Ken Salazar.