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Interior Secretary Nominee Haaland Appears Before Senate Committee

Tim TarpleyAnalysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week President Biden’s Interior Secretary nominee Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM-1) appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to answer questions regarding her nomination and the administration’s plans for energy development on federal lands and waters.

The hearing held added significance because it was viewed by senators and observers as part of a larger debate about the future of oil and gas in the Biden administration, and not just a hearing on Haaland’s nomination.  

Prior to the hearing, the nominee’s position on oil and gas faced scrutiny from both sides of the aisle, as well as from the energy industry. Haaland spent much of the hearing working to calm criticisms and reassure senators. Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a strong oil and gas industry ally, introduced Haaland and said that while he may not agree with all her positions, she’s somebody he can work with, and she will continue to allow Americans to access federal lands for oil and gas development.

Haaland appeared to moderate her previous opposition to oil and gas. During the hearing, she said she would view fossil fuel development differently as a Cabinet member than she did as a member of Congress.

Questioning During Hearing

In her opening statement, and under questioning by the panel’s chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Haaland said she supports oil and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands. She acknowledged oil and gas as a critical component of the U.S. workforce, and said maintaining the sector is critical to the federal budget. 

Haaland said it’s possible to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century, but that the transition won’t happen overnight, and the U.S. will continue to rely on oil and natural gas during this transition. 

During questioning from ranking member Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Daines (R-MT), Haaland reiterated her position that the leasing ban on federal lands is “temporary” and would not last indefinitely. Despite this assurance, the administration has not issued clear guidance on the expected duration, and what criteria needs to be met to end the leasing ban.  

Additionally, Haaland said she did not know if the leasing ban would lower carbon emissions in the United States or the world. This is crucial, because the Council, and many others, believe the ban could increase emissions. Using cleaner and affordable natural gas for power generation has to lowered U.S. carbon emissions dramatically in recent years. 

Additionally, during questioning from Sen. James Risch (R-ID), Haaland reiterated support for Biden’s executive action denying permits for the Keystone pipeline, which has been stalled for more than a decade. Haaland made it clear she views her role as Secretary of the Interior will be to support the goals of the administration, even when her individual opinions may differ. 

While the debate was heated, Sen. Manchin announced he will support the nomination, which means Haaland’s nomination will be approved by the panel. The nomination now makes its way to the Senate floor, where she will face additional questions and a vote by the full Senate. 

Paris Agreement

President Biden will host a global climate summit with world leaders on April 22. According to a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the U.S. and Canada will release new climate emission targets before this meeting. Under terms of the U.S. reentry into the Paris Agreement, the U.S. must submit a new plan called a “nationally determined contribution.” The two countries have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 to fulfill the agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. 

The move to update the emissions targets will occur while major nations are planning to meet this November in Glasgow, Scotland for the annual Conference of Parties summit. Attendees will announce new goals to combat climate change at that meeting.

Federal Lands

The Council has formed a coalition with other leading oil and gas trade organizations to engage with policy makers on the federal leasing ban, click here for more information.

For more information on the Council’s advocacy efforts, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

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