Oil and natural gas will continue to play a major role in America for years to come, even as the Biden administration seeks to conserve public lands and address climate change, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Interior Department pledges.
Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., named to lead the Interior Department, said she is committed to “strike the right balance” as the agency manages energy development and seeks to restore and protect the nation’s sprawling federal lands.
Biden’s agenda, including the possible creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, “demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production” and “has the potential to spur job creation,” Haaland said in testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing Tuesday. Haaland’s remarks are intended to rebut criticism from some Republicans who have complained her opposition to drilling on federal lands will cost thousands of jobs and harm economies throughout the West.
Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. The Laguna Pueblo member and two-term congresswoman often draws on her experience as a single mother and the teachings of her ancestors as a reminder that action the U.S. takes on climate change, the environment and sacred sites will affect generations to come.
Native Americans see Haaland’s nomination as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and to put more land into the hands of tribal nations either outright or through stewardship agreements. The Interior Department has broad oversight of tribal affairs and energy development.
“The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me,” Haaland said in her prepared testimony. “Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans — moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.”