‘I Don’t Have A Number’: Biden Interior Sec Left Tongue-Tied When Asked To Name Supporters Of Major Wind Project

(YouTube / Screenshot / Public — User: Senate Energy Dems, Chairman Joe Manchin III)

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Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland struggled to answer basic questions about a major wind farm development in Idaho during a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill.

Republican Idaho Sen. Jim Risch asked Haaland to list the names of people or groups that support the Lava Ridge wind farm development, a major wind project in the southern, central part of the state. Haaland suggested that there is local support for the project, but she did not name a single entity or individual supporting the project in response to multiple inquiries from Risch.

Risch has previously grilled Haaland about the major project, which he claims has little support from Idaho’s population. The project has drawn opposition from a range of interests, including ranchers, some local governments and those concerned about the Minidoka National Historic Site, a memorial to Japanese-Americans detained in internment camps during World War II, according to The Associated Press. (RELATED: Biden’s Interior Secretary On The Verge Of Tears Talking About Climate Change)


“Madam secretary, as you recall, last time we were here, we had a spirited discussion about the Lava Ridge project. I think you’re quite familiar with that,” Risch said to Haaland. “I delivered you a very clear message about what the people of Idaho think about this, and the tens of thousands of people that are affected by this, all of whom oppose it. We have actually identified three people that are for it, but those three people have a financial interest in the project itself. Since we had that discussion last time, can you tell this committee whether or not you can confirm what I told you, and that is the number of people in Idaho that support this you can count on one hand?” Risch asked.

“Senator, in the consultations that we’ve head, there have been roughly 26 government-to-government consultation meetings with tribes, at least 19 meetings with county commissioners from Lincoln, Jerome and Minidoka Counties, 14 briefings for members of Congress and their staffs, six meetings with local organizations, four meetings with grazing permittees and other members of the agricultural committee and six public meetings on the draft environmental statement,” Haaland replied. “We are doing our work.”

The government is generally required by law to seek comments and insights from stakeholders as part of the process for developing wind farms and other types of major infrastructure projects. Wind power, including offshore wind, is a major facet of President Joe Biden’s plans to have the U.S. power system reach carbon neutrality by 2035 and the wider economy reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

“That’s good,” Risch said. “Can you identify for me the people who support this project? Because this will only take a few seconds, to name the three people.”

“Thank you, senator. I appreciate you mentioning that you have found three people,” Haaland said.

“Have you not found those three?” Risch followed up. “I can give you their names and addresses.”

Haaland responded that she would be happy to follow up with Risch’s office about his inquiries, but Risch continued pressing Haaland to answer his questions on the spot.

“Senator, I don’t have a number for you today,” Haaland responded to another question about how many Idahoans her agency has identified that support Lava Ridge.

“Have you found anybody that’s in favor of this?” Risch asked.

“Senator, I do truly appreciate your line of questioning here,” Haaland said. “And as I mentioned, we would be happy to be in touch with you…”

Risch interrupted, demanding that Haaland answer his question about whether the Department of the Interior has found any person or entity that is in favor of the Lava Ridge project.

“Your staff supports this, I gather, but I am not looking for staff that supports this,” Risch said. “Tell me somebody who supports this project.”

“I don’t have a list of people currently,” Haaland said in response. “But I’m happy to get back with you.”

The exchange continued until Risch asked Haaland to commit to providing him a list of specific individuals and entities that support the Lava Ridge wind project, but Haaland would initially only commit to contacting Risch’s team about the subject. Eventually, Haaland said that her agency would provide a list for the record.

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