Joe Balash, former Department of Natural Resources commissioner for Alaska, and former Chief of Staff to Sen. Dan Sullivan, was presented to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday for confirmation.
In his statement to the committee, Balash recalled that as a teen he spent his time “chasing salmon wherever his Subaru could go.” Growing up fishing and learning about the salmon life cycle helped him appreciate the importance of clean habitat.
“At the same time, I began to learn about the Permanent Fund dividend, and where our state’s wealth came from,” he said. He came to understand that resource development and good wildlife habitat are often compatible.
Balash, if confirmed, is the new Assistant Secretary of Interior for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of Interior.
Balash is from North Pole. On an interim basis until officially confirmed, he runs the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and other agencies within Interior that have authority over so much of Alaska’s land and, by extension, its economy.
Gov. Bill Walker, upon his election in November, 2014, hastily replaced Balash as head of the Department of Natural Resources with his own pick, Mark Myers. Myers resigned within two years, and was replaced by Andy Mack of PT Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Alice Rogoff, publisher of the now bankrupt Alaska Dispatch News.
Balash told the committee that as the head of Alaska DNR, he helped eliminate more than 50 percent of the permitting backlog in the agency.
The backlog of permit applications at DOI number in the thousands.
“Ultimately, I would seek to perform a similar review” at Interior, he said, adding that “the overall management approach needs to reflect the fact that these lands belong to the public.”
Sen. Sullivan was unable to be there to introduce Balash due to the death of his uncle.