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As Deb Haaland Faces GOP Backlash Over Role in Pipeline Protests, Progressives Say: 'Confirm Her Immediately'

Opposition to fracking and fossil fuel pipelines "are the exact reasons Deb Haaland is the right pick for Interior secretary," said one advocacy group.

Deb Haaland, nominee to be Interior Secretary, attends President Joe Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

Deb Haaland, nominee to be Interior Secretary, attends President Joe Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Monday highlighted a Wall Street Journal story on Deb Haaland—President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior—with a tweet accurately stating: "Interior secretary nominee has joined pipeline protests and opposed fracking."

While Cornyn intended the message to be a criticism of Haaland—who, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first-ever Native American cabinet secretary—progressives said the New Mexico congresswoman's steadfast opposition to fracking and destructive fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline are precisely what make her the most qualified candidate for a role tasked with protecting federal lands and overseeing the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"Thank God," Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said in response to Cornyn's tweet. "Confirm her immediately."

Climate scientist Michael Mann tweeted at the Texas Republican, "You make a compelling argument for approving the nominee, senator."

As the Journal reported, Haaland in recent years "has joined with pipeline protesters, supported the Green New Deal, and opposed fracking on public lands. For a cabinet post that oversees the government's longstanding, multibillion-dollar partnership with drillers on federal lands, Ms. Haaland's environmental politics are in contrast to those of her predecessors." If confirmed, Haaland would succeed former oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt.

The Journal goes on to quote from a 2017 Medium post in which Haaland, then a congressional candidate, wrote, "Fracking is a danger to the air we breathe and water we drink."

"The auctioning off of our land for fracking and drilling serves only to drive profits to the few," Haaland continued. "We must not destroy protected Native ancestral lands and important cultural and heritage sites for the sake of a relatively short-term oil and gas fix, especially when it results in the degradation of sacred sites, land, water, and air."

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Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Biden ordered a 60-day pause on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands, a temporary ban that climate activists said they hope will be made permanent.

While the fossil fuel industry and Republican senators have objected to Haaland's history of fighting oil and gas pipelines and backing the Green New Deal—Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told the Journal that it is "unprecedented" for an Interior Department nominee to support such "radical policies"—members of the Senate Democratic caucus made clear that the congresswoman's positions are well-suited to a time of climate emergency.

"We need an Interior Secretary who has the guts to take on fossil fuel CEOs whose greed is destroying the planet," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "We need an Interior Secretary who will protect our environment. I'm confident Deb Haaland is that person and I am proud to support her nomination."

In a letter to Daines and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) last week, leaders of the Global Indigenous Council, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, and Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association urged swift confirmation of Haaland, who has yet to have her first confirmation hearing. Daines, as the Journal reported, has threatened to use procedural delay tactics to obstruct Haaland's confirmation.

"There is good reason for tribal nations and their tribal members opposing projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline," the Indigenous leaders wrote, referring to the fossil fuel project that Biden halted last month by revoking a federal permit. "Not only would that have created immense vulnerability to reservation communities along its proposed route, it, like similar initiatives from a bygone age, threatened environmental catastrophe."

Having an Indigenous person serve as Interior secretary is "way overdue," the letter continued. "We are proud to support Representative Deb Haaland to be that woman to make history."

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