Watchdog group files ethics complaint on Interior Secretary Haaland over New Mexico gas, oil leases

A government watchdog suggests Haaland had conflciting interests when she moved to ban oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of the New Mexico landmark.

Published: August 17, 2023 3:40pm

Updated: August 17, 2023 3:46pm

The watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust filed a complaint Thursday against Interior Secretary Deb Haaland accusing her of an ethic violation in connection with her agency's ban on oil and gas leases within 10-miles of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon.

The complaint, which was filed with the agency's inspector general's office, includes a request for an immediate investigation and centers on potential conflicts of interest – considering Haaland’s involvement in an anti-fossil fuel film about Greater Chaco Canyon and her daughter’s involvement with lobbying groups.

“Somah Haaland, Secretary Haaland’s child, is a prominent member of an activist organization that lobbied federal officials seeking to restrict oil and gas leasing in the area,” the complaint reads.

The complaint also points out Somah Haaland narrated the anti-fracking film "Our Story: The Indigenous Led Fight to Protect Greater Chaco," in which her mother participated prior to her nomination to be Interior secretary. It also argues the agency leader made public statements "opposing oil and gas development in this area.”

Earlier this year, a 10-mile buffer zone was established around the New Mexico historic landmark for the stated reason of preserving the land.

The decision was opposed by Navajo natives who live in the area and argued the Biden administration ignored their concerns about the related negative economic consequences.

Western Energy Alliance's Kathleen Sgamma also said the administration didn't consider all sides of the matter.

"As secretary of the Interior, she [Haaland] has an obligation to balance the interests of all tribes, and not favor just one side," the group told Just the News. "She failed to even consider the compromise solution offered by the sovereign Navajo Nation, a major NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] blunder that sinks any decision that fails to properly consider reasonable alternatives."

PPT, whose director is former Trump administration official Michael Chamberlain, filed a complaint last year against Haaland, for what the group said was her decision not to report "any personal bank accounts or investment accounts” despite living in a home worth over $1 million and having a $175,000 salary during her time in Congress.

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