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Republicans object to DOI nominee's past views on fracking, meat

By Robin Bravender

July 19, 2011

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The confirmation of President Barack Obama's pick for a top Interior Department post may turn on her diet and her views on fracking.

Republican senators on Tuesday grilled Rebecca Wodder - Obama's nominee for assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks - over a 2007 interview in which she criticized hydraulic fracturing's "nasty track record" and spoke against eating beef.

During a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked Wodder whether she stands by her comments to E magazine that she objected to factory farms.

"I eat almost no beef or pork because of the amount of resources consumed in producing food via cattle or pigs, and because I object to factory farms," Wodder said at the time, when she was president of American Rivers.

Wodder told the Senate panel that her dietary preferences were personal, but that the objection to factory farms was a comment on behalf of American Rivers.

Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) criticized Wodder's stance on hydraulic fracturing after she wrote in June 2010 in The Huffington Post that "fracking has a nasty track record of creating a toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater and streams, threatening public health and wildlife."

Wodder again said she made her comments as the head of the rivers organization, and said she recognizes that the Interior post is an "entirely different job." She said natural gas is an important part of U.S. energy security, but that it's important to proceed carefully to avoid "unintended consequences."

Also, she told Inhofe, "This is in the jurisdiction of the [Bureau of Land Management] and would not be in my purview should I be confirmed."

Committee Democrats defended Wodder, and Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) apologized for some of the questions Wodder was asked. "I think they were confusing your personal views with your role that you had," Boxer said.

But Republican senators weren't convinced, and both Inhofe and Barrasso said they may block Wodder's nomination if she is cleared by the committee.