Interior nominee Haaland questioned on drilling, pipelines

Full Screen
1 / 4

Graeme Jennings/WashingtonExaminer

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Interior Department faced sharp questions from Republicans Tuesday over what several called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Deb Haaland, a New Mexico congresswoman named to lead the Interior Department, tried to reassure GOP lawmakers, saying she is committed to “strike the right balance” as Interior manages oil drilling and other energy development while seeking to conserve public lands and address climate change.

If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

Native Americans see her nomination as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and to put more land into the hands of tribal nations either outright or through stewardship agreements. The Interior Department has broad oversight over nearly 600 federally recognized tribes as well as energy development and other uses for the nation’s sprawling federal lands.

“The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me,″ Haaland testified. “Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans — moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.″

Haaland's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday.

Under questioning from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy “is not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Manchin, who is publicly undecided on Haaland’s nomination, appeared relieved, saying he supports “innovation, not elimination” of fossil fuels.