Deb Haaland Could Be a Disaster at Interior
This week, President Biden's candidate for the Home Office, New Mexico Congressman Deb Haaland, is available for Senate confirmation. Haaland, a self-described "progressive" and member of the Pueblo of Laguna, would, if confirmed, be the first Native American to lead the interior. The department manages approximately 500 million acres, or approximately one-fifth of the land in the United States. The agency's work is of interest to all Americans as it oversees more than 400 national parks from Yellowstone to White Sands. However, the department is of particular importance to Westerners as more than 90 percent of the areas it administers are in the western United States.
Haaland's appointment makes some political sense for President Biden that will enable him to place a Native American in a leadership position over Interior's vast network of Indian reservations. These reserves, including the Navajo Reservation in northwest New Mexico, remain some of the deepest poverty areas in the country. The fact that no Native American ever managed these reservations is indeed worth a remedy.
But Interior is a big division with many countries with different purposes, and western resource-intensive states, including New Mexico, have already seen the Biden government act in ways that cause significant damage to their economies.
At Interior, Deb Haaland would be a cheerleader for Biden's early anti-energy policies and would likely look for ways to expand them. She has taken radical positions against fossil fuels during her political career. Prior to his election to Congress in 2016, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days in September.
In May 2019, the newly minted congresswoman told The Guardian, "I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land."
Are Haaland's positions and opinions based on sound science and history? In a 2019 story by Los Alamos Monitor, Haaland claimed that "climate change in the US started when Europeans arrived and killed the buffalo". Given the many dramatic changes that have shaped the climate in prehistoric North America (and everywhere on this planet), Haaland's understanding of environmental forces is a little distorted.
Given her radical views, it is not surprising that Haaland was a strong supporter of the Green New Deal. The ambitious plan proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and others would cost trillions in subsidies and lose economic activity. The plan's radical proposals include a mandatory switch to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and an increase in the highest marginal tax rate to 70 percent.
On the first day, the Biden administration withdrew approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. While this pipeline does not directly affect power generation states, the carefree approach to approval has set red flags. Shortly thereafter, the Biden government imposed a moratorium on new oil and gas leases in federal states. If this were confirmed, Haaland would be a staunch defender of such guidelines.
The home state of Haaland, New Mexico, is particularly hard hit by the events at Interior. The state has the third highest Native American population in the United States, and it also happens to be the state most financially dependent on energy generated in federally administered areas within its borders.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, a ban on oil and gas leases in New Mexico could cost 62,000 jobs, cut state revenues by $ 1.1 billion, and cut oil and gas production in the state by nearly 50 percent.
With Haaland's nomination coming up this week and Biden already adopting an aggressive anti-energy stance, it's ironic that Haaland wasn't Biden's first choice for the job.
According to several New Mexico media, Biden initially offered the position to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. On December 2, media reported that Lujan Grisham had been offered the top position at Interior but turned it down. Lujan Grisham has never publicly stated why she turned down the job even though she is midway through her first term in a “blue” New Mexico, where she is expected to be re-elected in 2022.
As has been the case since Biden's candidacy for the White House, identity politics plays a major role for him. The president had apparently put the minister of interior aside to be occupied by a western female minority democrat. A few weeks after Lujan Grisham turned him down, Biden chose the post in Haaland.
The fact that the slot at Interior is based solely on demographics is underpinned by the fact that Lujan Grisham and Haaland have very different views on state administration. While both women are from New Mexico (one Spanish and one Native American), they are examples of opposing wings of the Democratic Party for Energy.
From 2013 to 2019, Lujan Grisham represented the same congressional district in the Albuquerque area as Haaland (Haaland will give up the seat if confirmed) and took a practical, moderate view of energy. This moderation is particularly reflected in their 2015 vote to lift the ban on crude oil exports. She was one of only 26 Democrats in the House of Representatives who voted for repeal. 153 of them voted to keep the ban.
Lujan Grisham continued to be moderate on energy issues as she moved into the New Mexico governor's house in 2019. During her tenure, she has been very supportive of the state's oil and gas industry, and has even considered filing a waiver case of a federal leasing ban. As a governor worried about the economic and financial interests of her state (and happy to produce oil and gas for 30 to 40 percent of the state budget), Lujan Grisham has tried to appease environmentalists in their political base without seriously harming the country harm the state's most important industry. Because of President Biden's early energy policy, Haaland appears to be better suited to administration.
Senator Steve Daines (R., Mont.) Has announced that Haaland's nomination has been rejected. Montana's junior senator signaled that not only would he vote against her endorsement, but he would try to prevent her nomination from moving forward.
“I am deeply concerned about the support from Congressmen on several radical issues that will harm Montana, our way of life, our jobs, and rural America, including their support for, as well as, the Green New Deal and President Biden's oil and gas moratorium Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, "Daines said in a statement. Is that enough to stop Haaland from bringing her radical policies to the Home Office? We should all hope so.
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