Deb Haaland is a Democratic representative from New Mexico who could make history with the Biden administration: she could become the first Native American cabinet secretary and, in addition, she promises to pursue an environmental agenda that could bring about “a historic change in the U.S. government’s relationship with oil,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Yet Deb Haaland has a long way to go to get there: the Senate must approve her nomination, made by President Joe Biden, as Secretary of the Interior. And there are many Republicans hoping to find moderate alliances in the Democratic ranks to prevent the representative from getting the job.
Republican hopes are mostly pinned on names like Joe Manchin (D-VA), who is one of the most moderate voices in the Democratic Party Congress. But Mr. Manchin has yet to make a statement on his position on Deb Haaland and, moreover, commented that he would support Biden’s nominations.
Deb Haaland is also very close to Hollywood. “In their latest delirium, dozens of Hollywood entertainers signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris asking their administration to permanently shut down the Dakota Access pipeline. This letter comes in the wake of the Keystone XL pipeline closure that President Joe Biden declared three weeks ago,” notes a recent El American article, criticizing actors calling for the closure of a pipeline that would put thousands of Americans out of work.
“The Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico has joined pipeline protesters, supported the Green New Deal and opposed hydraulic fracturing on public lands,” reads the Wall Street Journal profile. “For a Cabinet post overseeing the government’s multibillion-dollar partnership with drillers on federal lands, Haaland’s environmental policies stand in stark contrast to those of his predecessors.”
A vociferous opponent of Frank
“Fracking is a danger to the air we breathe and the water we drink,” she wrote in 2017, a year before she was elected representative. “Auctioning off our land for fracking and drilling only serves to drive profits to a few.”
Haaland’s stance on fracking has several representatives from states that rely on oil drilling, which produces multiple benefits to the federal government as well as state administrations, concerned.
“Fracking has become the source of most of the oil and gas produced in the United States, and Ms. Haaland’s record of criticism has alarmed leaders of fossil fuel-producing states,” WJS reviewed. “Many of them come from the West, where nearly all drilling on federal land takes place and where states benefit from the money.”
“To have a candidate who has taken the most radical positions, who supports the most radical policies on natural resources, is unprecedented,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) commented in a concerned tone in an interview. “Many of our western states (…) depend on the revenue coming out of those federal lands to fund governments.”
These concerns are not in vain. Fracking represents a real economic and opportunity boom for the USA.
According to El Español newspaper, there are about 9,000 independent oil and natural gas producers in the United States. “These companies operate in 33 states and employ an average of 12 people. About 91 % of American oil wells are owned by independent producers and produce 83 % of the country’s crude oil and 90 % of its natural gas.”
According to the consulting firm IHS, fracking generated more than two million new jobs. IHS studies determined that over the decade this technique will contribute 125,000 million dollars to the American treasury.
The ban would not only affect the jobs of the workers who make their living from drilling, but the pocketbooks of all Americans in general. A Wall Street Journal article noted that “the average price of natural gas was cut in half thanks to fracking.” “The same energy that cost us $7 a few years ago can today be financed with $3,” the Journal explained.
If fracking is banned and green energy is promoted – a goal of the Biden administration – gas costs, for example, will rise, and this will affect the average American. Mercator’s calculations indicate that the lower income segment of the population “benefits more from this process (fracking) than any other group, as their spending on these types of bills is five times higher than that of middle or high income households.”
Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, the United States achieved energy independence and positioned itself as the leading producer of hydrocarbons for the first time since 1973 -surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia- thanks to fracking.
Fracking in danger?
But whether Deb Haaland succeeds in becoming Secretary of the Interior or not, fracking is in jeopardy because of the Biden administration’s positions.
The current administration intends to change course on what Trump developed on environmental and economic grounds, “as he proposed a $1.7 trillion plan that focuses on clean energy, green jobs and aims to make the electricity sector carbon-free by 2035 and net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” reads a previous article of El American.
In another article, on this same topic, it states: “Joe Biden at the end of his campaign promised that he would not ban fracking, nor would he ban oil and natural gas extraction activities, but he never bothered to clarify that he would devote all his efforts to making fossil fuel extraction as unviable as possible. This Wednesday, President Biden signed a new executive order banning new allocations on federal lands for the construction of new fracking projects.”
In addition, the USA will once again become part of the Paris Agreement. This flies directly in the face of those who want to protect traditional jobs in the oil and gas industry. Going in tune with representatives like Deb Haaland, AOC or the Vice-President and former Senator herself, Kamala Harris.
The Senate Energy Committee has not set a date for Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing.
The story of Biden’s nominee for secretary of the interior
The state of New Mexico, which Haaland represents, became a drilling hotspot thanks to federal lands in the Permian Basin. After increasing its production sixfold in a decade, the state became the nation’s third-largest oil producer, according to the WJS profile cited above.
People who have worked with the congresswoman commented that her views and positions on the environment are directly influenced by her Native American heritage, especially the experiences of her tribe and others in New Mexico. Haaland, 60, is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, west of Albuquerque, and for much of her career served as an executive overseeing the tribe’s enterprises.
“Ms. Haaland earned degrees in English and law from the University of New Mexico, set up a salsa business and was elected the first chairwoman of the board of directors of Laguna Development Corp, which manages gaming and other tribal businesses,” explained the WSJ.
Often, read in profile, Deb Haaland presents herself as “a 35th-generation New Mexican.” “In campaigning for environmental initiatives, she tells the stories of tribal communities harmed by uranium, oil and gas extraction,” reported the WSJ.
“From the 1950s through the 1980s, Laguna agrarians began abandoning farming and ranching to rely on work at the giant Jackpile-Paguate uranium mine on Indian land leased by Interior,” the report reads. “Now abandoned, the government included Jackpile-Paguate on its superfund list for cleanup in 2013. Another uranium mine on nearby Pueblo lands, managed by Homestake Mining Co. was listed in 1983.”
Tribal leaders argue that irradiated runoff blows off the sites during heavy storms, contaminating their drinking and irrigation water. “Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said cancer, lung disease and suicides are part of the legacy of the mining years for Pueblo tribes,” according to the WSJ.
Haaland often tells her mother’s stories of how the fortunes of her communities changed with the mines, Vallo said.
“While the mining activity offered employment opportunities…the long-term implications of that industry in our area have been life-threatening,” Gov. Vallo explained.
The WSJ profile indicates that Deb Haaland’s political career took off in the last decade as environmentalists and Native Americans found common ground around climate change.
“In 2016, Haaland was one of thousands who gathered in North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s effort to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline,” the media outlet reviewed.
Deb Haaland stayed for four days and cooked a new Mexican dish, green chile stew, to feed the protesters from the trunk of her car.
“We need to act quickly to counter climate change and keep fossil fuels in the ground,” Haaland said on her congressional campaign website. “I pledge to vote against all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and to fight instead for 100 percent clean energy.”
As Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland would oversee national parks, Endangered Species Act regulations and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. She would do the same for public lands programs, including drilling and mining interests in leases covering millions of acres on and off the coast.
“These leases generate about $10 billion a year in revenue for the federal government, which shares about one-third of that money with states and tribes,” the WSJ reviewed. “Even if new leases are banned, the administration says current leases will remain in place, forcing Haaland to work with the oil companies he has pledged to work against.”
“His public statements have been quite antagonistic and hostile. There’s no two ways around it,” said Ryan Flynn, leader of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the largest oil industry trade group in Haaland’s home state.
Oil and gas development brought in $2.8 billion to state coffers last year, that’s equivalent to about one-third of the state’s general fund. Of that money, between one-third and one-half came from operations on federal lands, according to the oil and gas association.
“If the state is forced to make budget cuts or raise taxes to deal with deficits, the political price will absolutely be high,” Flynn told the WSJ.
“This will put pressure on Ms. Haaland even from her allies at home, if she is confirmed. State leaders plan to ask the Interior Department for help if the new rules curtail oil development, said Stephanie Garcia Richard, the state’s public-lands commissioner,” the report commented.
“She understands that you can’t be a spigot that closes. There has to be a plan,” Garcia Richard said. “Native people have been through a lot. They’ve been through generations of trauma. So she understands what the long game is.”