Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland faced questions from lawmakers on topics including federal drilling permits and pipelines during her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
If confirmed, Haaland would play a central role in managing more than 500 million acres of federal land and much of the nation’s vast array of natural resources. She would also play a major part in implementing President Joe Biden’s aggressive climate agenda, which calls for $2 trillion in federal spending over four years and an emissions-free power sector by 2035.
WATCH: Opening Statement from Interior Secretary Nominee Rep. Deb Haaland.
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“I almost feel like your nomination is this proxy fight for the future of fossil fuels,” Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell told Haaland during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.
Republican lawmakers were notably unenthusiastic about the nomination. The congresswoman has embraced a progressive climate agenda during her time in Congress and publicly endorsed both fracking bans and the Green New Deal.
“I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands,” Haaland said during a May 2019 interview with The Guardian. She also signed on to the People’s Demands for Climate Justice, a petition that calls for an “immediate ban on fracking” and ending fossil fuel subsidies, according to The New York Post.
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Haaland, a Democratic representative for New Mexico, was also a co-sponsor of Green New Deal legislation introduced by Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The interior nominee tweeted her support for the progressive climate proposal in 2018 and claimed her “ancestral homeland is under attack from the Fossil Fuel Industry.” (RELATED: Biden’s Anti-Drilling Interior Nominee Once Led Company That Profited From Fossil Fuels)
Steve Milloy, a climate policy expert and former transition team member during the Trump administration, warned that Haaland’s nomination could be a sign the Biden administration is willing to adopt a far more progressive climate policy.
“There is no daylight between Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland and the radical [Ocasio-Cortez] on climate, energy, federal lands and the Green New Deal,” Milloy said in a statement to the Daily Caller.
Republican Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Senate committee’s ranking member, expressed similar concerns about Haaland’s track record during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.
“I am troubled by many of Rep. Haaland’s views that many in my home state of Wyoming would consider as radical,” he said. “Haaland’s positions are squarely at odds with the mission of the Department of Interior; that mission includes managing our nation’s oil, gas, coal resources in a responsible manner.”
Haaland tried to ease Republican lawmakers’ concerns during her opening statement with a commitment to striking “the right balance” between using fossil fuels and efforts to combat climate change and preserve public lands.
“We will absolutely rely on fossil fuel energy,” she told senators. “But at the same time, I think we can move forward with the technology and innovation as well.”
But the congresswoman notably deflected several times when asked about her policy positions, stating that she would be implementing Biden’s agenda and not her own if confirmed. The president has said that he would not ban fracking and opposes the Green New Deal. (RELATED: Experts Say Biden’s Week One Climate Actions Already Killing Jobs)
“Do you support a ban on fracking and no new pipelines?” Republican Montana Sen. Steve Daines asked Haaland in reference to both her previous statements on fracking and Biden’s executive order ending the Keystone XL pipeline construction.
“President Biden does not support a ban on fracking is my understanding,” Haaland responded. “If I am confirmed as secretary, I would be serving at the pleasure of the President and it would be his agenda that I would move forward.”
“Do you agree with President Biden’s executive order to stop the Keystone XL pipeline?” Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy asked Haaland, once again pressing her on the administration’s pipeline policy.
“With respect to President Biden’s decision, it is his decision, he’s the President,” Haaland responded.
Biden Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland is asked if she agrees with President Biden’s EO cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline knowing it eliminates thousands of jobs:
“It is his decision. He’s the president.” pic.twitter.com/e2SQU0CGYR
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 23, 2021
Haaland did defend the president’s executive order temporarily suspending new fossil fuel leasing permits on federal land, responding to a question from Barrasso over projected job losses in the fossil fuel industry.
“My question is for you, why not just let these workers keep their jobs?” Barrasso asked.
“He didn’t ban new leases. He didn’t put a moratorium on new leases,” Haaland responded. “It’s a pause to review the federal fossil fuel program.”