Rep. Haaland: Federal Lands Orders Are “Not A Permanent Ban”

The Biden administration’s orders on oil and natural gas leasing and permitting on federal lands are not permanent bans, according to Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), during day one of her confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary who said.

Throughout the hearing, Rep. Haaland repeatedly told members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that she does not believe these orders are permanent:

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

Currently only the permitting order has an expiration date for mid-March while no inclination has been given as to when or if federal oil and gas leasing will resume.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Biden’s climate plan definitively stated its goal of “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” Rep. Haaland’s statement that a permanent ban might never happen indicates the administration may be reconsidering these actions that will have massive economic, budgetary, energy security, and environmental consequences.

On Past Statements

Senators also pressed Rep. Haaland on her past opposition to oil and gas development, including a 2019 statement, where she said, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands.” Even Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who both introduced and championed Rep. Haaland, acknowledged in his remarks the importance of oil and gas and the impacts the president’s orders have had on his state:

“I am an oil producing state too, and we lost a lot of jobs – not because of Deb – we lost them because of the president signing an executive order. It’s really a hardship on us. We’re trying to explain if we have people in the Dept. of Interior such as Deb maybe they’ll be a balance. And anybody who thinks you’re going to cut off fossil fuels immediately is smoking pot – that’s legal in the state of Alaska by the way. They’re not realizing only 19 percent of a barrel of oil is used for propulsion. The rest of it, if you look around this room – including that rug – all kinds of different uses…And I know this is being done because of climate change, I recognize that, but that won’t solve the problem.”

In her opening remarks and throughout the hearing, Rep. Haaland backtracked on her previous comments and acknowledged the crucial role oil and gas development plays in supporting jobs and vital public services:

“There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to critical services.”

In a exchange with Sen. John Barrasso, Rep. Haaland answered several questions on the future of oil and gas and related infrastructure:

Sen. Barrasso: “I’d just like to follow up on some of the things Senator Manchin started with. Yes or no answers – if you could.   As a general matter, should the federal government continue to permit oil and gas wells in this country?”

Rep. Haaland: “Yes and I believe that’s happening.”

Sen. Barrasso: “As a general matter, should the federal government continue to permit natural gas pipelines in this country?”

Rep. Haaland: “Senator, as I mentioned in my opening statement, I believe this will go on for quite some time. I know President Biden has put a pause on new leases, not existing ones.”

Sen. Barrasso: “As a general matter, should the federal government continue to permit oil pipelines in this country?”

Rep. Haaland: “Senator with respect to the Department of Interior, wherever pipelines fall under, the authority of the Department of the Interior, of course.”

When asked directly by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) if she supports banning fracking, Rep. Haaland responded that the president does not support a fracking ban and that she would support his agenda.

Round two of the hearing will commence Wednesday at 10:00 AM, and if today was any indicator, the future of oil and gas development on federal lands will again feature prominently.

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