Day 2: Rep. Haaland Goes Further, Says Federal Lands Moratorium Is Not A “Permanent Thing”

During the second day of her confirmation hearing to serve as Interior Secretary, Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) definitively said that the Biden administration’s “pause” on oil and natural gas permitting and leasing on federal lands won’t become a permanent policy.

After again being repeatedly pressed by members of the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Haaland said:

“It’s a pause. It’s not going to be a permanent thing where we are restricting all these things from something.”

That statement from Rep. Haaland goes even further than her comments during the first day of the confirmation hearing, when she said:

“I do not believe it is a permanent ban.”

The current moratorium is in place while the Biden administration reviews the leasing system for oil and natural gas development on federal lands. While Rep. Haaland could not give a timeline for how long the orders would remain in effect – a question that was asked repeatedly – she stated:

“The review is not going to last forever.”

This seemingly opens up a rift between the Interior Secretary nominee’s comments and President Biden’s campaign plan, as the Washington Examiner noted:

“During the campaign, Biden promised to ban new oil and gas leasing, not just pause it.”

30 By 30

At the behest of Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rep. Haaland also discussed the 30 By 30 plan that she sponsored last Congress, which would conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030. Currently, the U.S. government would need to purchase acreage equal to California and Texas, combined, to even own 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters.

During the hearing, Rep. Haaland acknowledged the 30 By 30 plan would require collaboration with private land owners and Indian tribes:

“The 30 by 30 initiative that President Biden has embraced will be an opportunity for so many Americans to participate in conserving that amount of land and water. It’s not just relegated to public lands, but I understand that private land owners, Indian Tribes, it’s an opportunity for everyone to work together.” (emphasis added)

The Independent Petroleum Association of America sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week in opposition to H.R. 803, the “Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act.” This bill is the first big push this Congress to try to lock up lands in the West from any kind of use, including oil and gas development, as part of 30 By 30 efforts.

Not only would the bill create “nearly 1.5 million acres of new wilderness and permanently withdraws 1.2 million acres from mineral production,” but as IPAA’s Senior Vice Pres. of Government Relations and Political Affairs Dan Naatz explains:

It is in direct opposition to the multiple use mandate given to the Department of the Interior to manage the federal estate.

“Further, many of the lands under consideration in H.R. 803 do not meet the basic characteristics for consideration as wilderness. Instead, the legislation arbitrarily designates areas as wilderness and wild and scenic rivers despite official testimony provided by the relevant land management agencies to previous Congresses that many of these designations are inappropriate and not recommended. To declare areas that do not possess these characteristics undermines the integrity of the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.” (emphasis added)

Written comments must be submitted by today and no date has been set for a committee vote yet. If confirmed, hopefully one of Rep. Haaland’s first acts will be to offer an expiration date on the leasing and permitting orders that could have significant impacts on states, communities and workers across the country.

Read EID’s recap of the first day of the hearing here and see more updates on the discussions that took place throughout the two days of questions here.

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