Interior nominee Haaland says she's moving Biden agenda 'not my own' when pressed on oil criticism

Haaland says she fully supports Biden's energy agenda including his decision to halt new oil and gas leases on public lands but deflected questions about her personal positions

New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, President Biden's Interior secretary nominee, was pressed Tuesday during her Senate confirmation hearing about some of her past anti-oil and gas statements and responded by saying she's carrying out Biden's agenda rather than her own.

Haaland said she fully supports Biden's energy agenda including his decision to temporarily halt new oil and gas leases on public lands.

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines brought up Haaland's past statement that if she had it her way, she would "stop" oil and gas leasing on public lands. Daines asked her if she would support extending Biden's moratorium. 

"If I'm confirmed as secretary, it is President Biden's agenda, not my own agenda, that I would be moving forward," she said during her hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

Daines told Haaland that oil and gas leases on public lands generate a lot of revenue for public schools and other essential services. Daines asked for her plan to make up for lost revenue if the moratorium on oil and gas leases is extended.

"As I mentioned earlier, if I am confirmed, it is President Biden's agenda that I would move forward, not my own," she said. 

Daines asked Haaland if she would follow science and data, as she mentioned in the hearing, instead of "blindly" following the administration. 

"The science and the data I would assume would go without saying because I realize that the department relies on science," she said.

When asked if she supports a ban on fracking and no new pipelines, Haaland said, "President Biden does not support a ban on fracking is my understanding and it would be his agenda that we would move forward."

Daines pressed Haaland on her personal view on those matters.

"I would be serving at the pleasure of the president," she said.

Sen. John Barrasso, a medical doctor and Wyoming Republican, asked Haaland whether she stands by her past statement that Republicans don't believe in science. He mentioned that there are two other medical doctors who are Republican members of the committee.

"Do you think as medical doctors we don't stand by science?" he asked.

"If you're a doctor, I would assume that you do believe in science," Haaland replied.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said there's a "definite threat" to the resource industry in Alaska under Biden. She asked Haaland to elaborate on her approach to oil and gas development in states like Alaska.

"I know that President Biden doesn't want to cripple any state. He put the pause on the new leases in order to review the program," she said. "I want you to know that if I am confirmed I will rely heavily on our relationship moving forward. I do want to work with you."

Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy asked Haaland if she agrees with Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline project, costing about 11,000 jobs.

"It is his decision. He's the president," she said.

Cassidy cited a State Department report based on "science" that said the Keystone pipeline wouldn't raise greenhouse gas emissions. 

"I will be happy to read any report," Haaland said. 

Haaland also endorsed Biden's executive order to create a Civilian Climate Corps as a way to create green jobs.

If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to hold the position.