President Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of the interior, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, faced Senate lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday and did little to shake fears about her progressive radicalism.
Haaland was nominated in December after completing just one term in the House. She came to Congress in the 2018 midterms as a climate activist who had previously joined protesters against the South Dakota Access Pipeline Project. In the House, Haaland’s environmental activism earned her praise from New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called her a “Green New Deal champion,” and the New Mexico congresswoman was an original co-sponsor of the progressive legislation, which sought to mandate the rapid decarbonization of the American economy under a socialist agenda.
On fossil fuels, Haaland has said she remains “wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands,” while being opposed to any and all oil and gas exploration on public property. Revenues from such energy exploration, however, provide the lifeblood of her home state’s economy. Forty percent of New Mexico’s budget depends on oil and gas production.
In 2018, Haaland tried to claim revenues could be offset by legalizing cannabis. “That is another industry that would be an economic boon for our state and this district,” Haaland said.
As secretary of the interior, Haaland would oversee 500 million acres of public lands with a pivotal role in crafting the environmental agenda of the Biden White House. Haaland tried to ease lawmaker concerns surrounding her opposition to fossil fuels by reiterating their importance in her opening statement.
“There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to fund critical services,” Haaland said, in empty rhetoric Americans have heard before.
Last year, then-candidate Joe Biden routinely wavered back and forth over his opposition to fossil fuels depending on the audience. Throughout the primary, Biden was clear that under his administration, fracking would be banned.
“We would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated,” Biden once said during a CNN debate.
SUPERCUT: Biden promises "no more" fracking if he's elected President. pic.twitter.com/iWcsU2Yam8
— Abigail Marone (@abigailmarone) August 31, 2020
In the fall, however, Biden pretended to back off his earlier promises, even with an original Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal running with him on his ticket. Biden’s own website touted support for the Green New Deal, a note highlighted in a fact-check by The Federalist after the Democratic nominee tried to claim “that’s not my plan,” in the September debate.
“I do not propose banning fracking,” Biden said during an October ABC town hall. “It has to be managed very, very well.” Ban or no ban, however, it won’t matter if the Biden administration, featuring Haaland, would just regulate the industry to death.
Biden’s apparent change of heart was merely empty political rhetoric so as not to lose votes in key tipping-point states such as Pennsylvania where Trump aired footage at rallies of Biden’s earlier comments railing against fossil fuels. “We’re going to phase out fossil fuels,” Biden says in the video.
Within his first month in office, Biden signed executive orders to do just that, yanking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and placed moratoriums on new mining, oil, and gas leases on public lands with an order for the Department of the Interior to review existing permits.
The new policies are poised to wreck states dependent on energy production, and Haaland stands to be their champion at the helm of Interior. Haaland dodged questions about her personal opinions on Tuesday and instead pivoted to reaffirming her commitment to Biden’s agenda, an already progressive platform crafted under the framework of the Green New Deal.
“Do you support a ban on fracking and no new pipelines?” pressed Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
“President Biden does not support a ban on fracking is my understanding,” she said. When asked again, Haaland gave a re-worded version of the first answer.
“If I am confirmed as secretary, I would be serving at the pleasure of the president, and it would be his agenda that I would move forward,” Haaland said, without backing away from earlier statements that she was “wholeheartedly against fracking.” Adequate regulation passed by the Biden administration could effectively serve the same purpose as outright banning fracking.
When Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy pressed her on her position over Biden’s order on the Keystone Pipeline, Haaland said again that it remains the president’s decision.
Of course, no Cabinet nominee would openly contradict the platform of the president prior to confirmation, let alone during a confirmation hearing. Her nomination and record of environmental radicalism, however, combined with the president’s aggressive early climate policies, expose the Trojan Horse of progressivism that Republicans warned of all last year on the campaign trail.