Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, chosen by President Biden to lead the Department of the Interior, sought on Tuesday to find the line between her past remarks as an activist opposed to the fossil fuel industry and her potential role at the head of an agency which oversees drilling and conservation. on more than 500 million acres of public land nationwide.
On the first day of a two-part confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy Committee, Ms Haaland’s most important hearing was panel chair, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat who s he is often sided with the Republicans on environmental policy when he wants to. to protect the coal industry in its home state.
Privately, however, Democrats have warned Mr Manchin against being seen to derail Ms Haaland’s candidacy, who, if confirmed, would go down in history as First Secretary of the Native American cabinet. .
Mr Manchin asked Ms Haaland if she supported the idea of US energy independence, to which she said, ‘We want to move forward with innovation’, but added: ‘This will not happen. not overnight. We will continue to rely on fossil fuel energy. “
Mr Manchin replied: “I am totally committed to innovation, not elimination.”
Ms Haaland has previously called for a total ban on all fossil fuel exploration on public lands, and if upheld she would be accused of carrying out one of Mr Biden’s most controversial policies – to end future hydraulic fracturing, or hydraulic fracturing, for oil and gas. on public lands.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the senior Republican on the energy committee, said that while his appointment deserved recognition for its historic character, he was troubled by some of his views.
“If Representative Haaland intends to use the Home Office to crush the economy of Wyoming and other western states, then I will oppose the nomination,” Barrasso said.
Mr Barrasso and other Republicans have insisted on Ms Haaland about some of her past remarks, such as a 2019 interview in which she said: “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands.
Ms Haaland stressed that, if confirmed, she would adopt Mr Biden’s policy of suspending future fracking – rather than a total ban.
“If I am confirmed as secretary, it is President Biden’s agenda, not my own agenda, that I would go forward,” she said.
Ms Haaland could win the votes of some Republicans. Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has expressed concern over the steps Mr. Biden is taking to stop drilling in his state. But she also celebrated Ms Haaland’s historic appointment, and Ms Haaland noted that she and Ms Murkowski had worked together on a law to end violence against Native American women.
In an effort to underscore her bipartisan good faith, Ms. Haaland was introduced to the Senate committee by Ms. Murkowski’s Republican MP from Alaska, Representative Don Young.
“I got her across the aisle to tell me about Alaska. It is bipartisan, ”he said. Nonetheless, Mr. Young stressed that he did not agree with the policies to end the drilling.
“Anyone who thinks we’re going to stop fossil fuels immediately is smoking pot – it’s legal, by the way, in the state of Alaska.