If President-elect Donald Trump picks Sarah Palin to run the Department of Interior, she would oversee an agency whose goals she has at times opposed.
As governor of Alaska between 2007 and 2009, Palin sued the department to remove federal protections for the polar bear and the beluga whale.
Her name is among a handful said to be on the short list for secretary of Interior. Others include Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Lucas Oil Products co-founder Forrest Lucas; Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, one of the richest men in the world and a Trump energy adviser; and Robert Grady, a speechwriter and top Office of Management and Budget official in the George H.W. Bush White House.
Palin took on Interior when the George W. Bush administration wanted to extend endangered species protection to the polar bear after various federal studies concluded that global warming was harming the animals’ habitat. The Arctic Sea ice was disappearing. It was estimated at the time that about 25,000 polar bears existed, with about a fifth of them in Alaska.
Palin argued that the protections would hurt the oil and gas business in her state. A federal judge ruled against Alaska in 2011.
While still governor in 2009, Palin said her state would sue to remove federal protections from the beluga whale, whose numbers had fallen precipitously over several decades. Palin said the population of whales in the inlet near Anchorage appeared to be recovering. Environment and wildlife experts disagreed.
Before Palin joined the 2008 Republican ticket as Sen. John McCain’s running mate and drew national attention, she had a reputation in Alaska as someone who didn’t kowtow to the state’s big oil and drilling interests. Once in the spotlight, she became linked to the chant that emerged at the GOP convention that year: “Drill, baby drill!”
One thing Palin has going for herself: She’s from the West. Only four appointed Interior secretaries (excluding any acting officials) over the past half a century have been from states outside the West.