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Interior nominee not saying if she will advise Biden to extend moratorium on oil, gas leases

At Rep. Deb Halland's confirmation hearing, GOP Sen. John Barrasso cited nominee's past words calling for the federal government to "keep fossil fuels in the ground."

Updated: February 25, 2021 - 10:53pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Rep. Deb Haaland, President Biden's secretary of the Department of the Interior nominee, declined to say on Wednesday if she would advise Biden to extend his moratorium on oil and gas leases if confirmed.

Biden signed an executive order to ban new oil and gas leases for 60 days. During questioning at the second day of Haaland's confirmation hearings, Sen. John Barrasso, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cited Haaland's past statement calling for the federal government to "keep fossil fuels in the ground." 

Barrasso entered a letter into the record from the Northern Arapaho Business Council that said delays in leasing have already hurt small-to-medium-sized operators in Wyoming and that further delays would damage the economy.

Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat, also said in the past she opposes fracking and drilling on public lands. Barrasso mentioned that the revenue from drilling on public lands funds public schools and other services.

The Wyoming senator asked Haaland on Wednesday if she would advise Biden to extend the moratorium. 

Haaland reiterated that "President Biden's agenda would be my agenda" and that she recognizes her role representing one district in the House is "much different" than interior secretary.

"I want to make sure that if I am confirmed that we're looking at things and working to strike the right balance," she said. "We need to care as much about the environment as we do about the fossil fuel infrastructure in your state and other states. We need to balance those priorities. 

"I feel that, yeah, sometimes it might seem like a tricky sort of balancing act, but I feel very strongly that if we have a mind to protect our public lands for future generations, that we'll also be able to protect jobs for future generations as well. I am very much excited about the opportunities that lie ahead — and Chairman Manchin and I have spoken about this — the technology opportunities, the innovative opportunities for workers across this country." 

Haaland said she thinks there are energy sector workers around the country who want to have "jobs of the future."

During the hearing, Haaland said she supports Biden's effort to create more green energy jobs as part of his "Build Back Better" plan. She also backs Biden's executive order to create a Civilian Climate Corps. 

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