In U.S. Rep. Haaland, There’s Common Ground for a Working Relationship
Posted February 26, 2021
In introducing U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland – President Biden’s choice to be Interior Department secretary – to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Don Young of Alaska, a staunch Republican, predicted this about his House colleague: “You’ll find out that she will listen to you.”
Given the political polarization in Washington, that’s pretty significant – and hugely important in building a bipartisan approach to energy, infrastructure and other issues associated with national economic growth, security and the environment.
The natural gas and oil industry welcomes the opportunity – if Rep. Haaland is confirmed by the full Senate – to work with her as her department manages millions of acres of federal lands and waters that are key to our country’s energy present and future.
First, we recognize the history Rep. Haaland is making, as she would be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. She has a compelling personal story. Her mother served in the U.S. Navy and her father in the U.S. Marine Corps. She can identify with challenges facing many Americans. As she told the Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
“I’m not a stranger to the struggles many families across America face today – I’ve lived most of my adult life paycheck to paycheck. I have pieced together health care for me and my child as a single mom, and at times relied on food stamps to put food on the table. It’s because of these struggles that I fully understand the role Interior must play in the President’s plan to build back better; to responsibly manage our natural resources to protect them for future generations - so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish, and pray among them.”
Though she voiced opposition to fracking and pipelines while in Congress, she hails from an important, natural gas and oil-producing state, New Mexico – which our industry hopes will help foster substantive, back-and-forth energy conversations leading to mutual goals: safe production of affordable, reliable energy and continued lower emissions of greenhouse gases.
No question, Rep. Haaland as Interior secretary would be critical for our industry. Though she has opposed fracking and pipeline infrastructure in Congress, she stressed throughout her two-day Senate hearing that leading Interior will be vastly different than representing a single congressional district. She said repeatedly she will support the policy positions of President Biden. Other significant takeaways:
- Energy security: Rep. Haaland said the U.S. “absolutely” will need fossil fuels for some time to come. “We absolutely need energy independence.”
- Infrastructure: Rep. Haaland said the federal government will issue permits for natural gas pipelines and other pipelines going forward.
- Fracking: Rep. Haaland said the president doesn’t support a ban on fracking and that she will support his agenda.
- Federal leasing: Rep. Haaland said the president’s executive order halting new federal natural gas and oil leasing is only a pause in leasing. “He didn’t ban new leases,” she said. “He didn’t put a moratorium on new leases. This is a pause to review the … the federal fossil fuel program. I know that there are still thousands of leases and thousands of permits that are moving forward. … I don’t believe that it is a permanent ban.”
- Demand and Emissions: Rep. Haaland said she knew of no evidence that a federal leasing ban would reduce the world’s production of natural gas and oil or its use of natural gas and oil. Of course, a major rationale for the administration’s federal leasing order is to reduce natural gas and oil use and, as a result, emissions.
More generally, in her prepared statement, Rep. Haaland acknowledged the critical importance of natural gas, oil and coal to the country, now and in the foreseeable future:
“As I’ve learned in this role, there’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come.”
Our industry supports smart regulation and oversight that helps reduce emissions and supports safe, responsible production of the energy the nation uses every day. We share the administration’s goals of economic recovery and climate and environmental progress. This includes support for the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources.
So, while there will be some issues where industry disagrees with Rep. Haaland, there clearly are important areas of common ground upon which to base a working relationship.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.