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The Senate unanimously confirmed Mark Nechodom's appointment to head the Department of Conservation on Monday, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pronouncing himself satisfied with Nechodom's commitment to managing hydraulic fracturing.

"...Assessing the qualifications as well as the direction of the director of this department, I am satisfied. I think he'll make a fine director," Steinberg said.

Nechodom had faced stiff questioning over his department's role in crafting regulations governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an energy extraction process that involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the ground.

Critics worry that fracking could endanger public health by compromising drinking water supplies, and Steinberg last week sought an assurance from Nechodom that the need to safeguard public safety would trump energy companies' desire to keep secret the identity of the chemicals they use.

Nechodom sent Steinberg a letter vowing to make public safety his priority, and Steinberg said on Monday that the letter "clearly answers" his concerns.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who sits on the Rules Committee and questioned him about fracking last week, said Nechodom was "eminently qualified" for the post.

"I was very impressed with the director Nechodom's qualifications, his knowledge, his commitment to work with us," Jackson said.



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