Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Deb Haaland Attacked by Fossil Fuel Industry

If Haaland follows through on the actions the oil and gas industry and their allies in Congress are worried about, she will be the most effective Interior Secretary in recent memory. 

Wenonah Hauter

The freakout by the oil and gas industry and their allies in Congress over Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior has begun in earnest. When Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn tweeted “Interior secretary nominee has joined pipeline protests and opposed fracking,” he certainly didn’t mean it as a compliment. Haaland’s historic nomination is already being opposed by Republican Senators Steve Daines and John Barrasso on similar grounds. 

But these critiques should be worn as a badge of honor. If  Haaland follows through on the actions these Senators are worried about, she will be the most effective Interior Secretary in recent memory. 

The mission of the Department of the Interior is to “conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage.” Unfortunately, past Interior department heads have viewed it as their mission to open up those natural resources to the oil and gas industry. Under both Obama and Trump, the department promoted the interests of the fossil fuel industry, auctioning off millions of acres of public land for oil and gas development. In four years, Trump  auctioned off 5.4 million acres  only slightly more than the nearly 5 million that were auctioned off under the second term of Obama-Biden.

While Obama moved to stop the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines near the end of his second term, those moves came too late and only after years of indigenous-led organizing and a sustained outcry from the environmental community.  

There is nothing more radical than continuing to build out fossil fuel projects when the science is clear that we need to be moving off fossil fuels to avoid climate chaos.

Representative Haaland would bring a fundamentally different approach to Interior - one that is actually in line with its mission of conservation, and recognizes the overarching need to transition our energy policy in order to avoid runaway climate chaos. The science is clear that if we want to do this, we need to transition off of fossil fuels and onto a 100% renewable energy future in the next decade. We simply cannot continue to open up more federal lands to drilling and fracking and approving new fracking infrastructure projects.

Haaland’s detractors, mostly funded by the fossil fuel industry, call her agenda of opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline and other pipelines and fracking projects "radical." But there is nothing more radical than continuing to build out fossil fuel projects when the science is clear that we need to be moving off fossil fuels to avoid climate chaos. 

Haaland’s opposition to fracking is about more than its awful climate impacts. As she once wrote that “fracking is a danger to the air we breathe and the water we drink.” With hundreds of well-documented studies on the health and environmental impacts of fracking, nothing could be less controversial than acknowledging fracking’s damage.

That the oil and gas industry and their toadies in Congress are attempting to torpedo Haaland’s nomination over such statements is more evidence of their radical anti-science, pro fossil fuel agenda than anything else. 

Rep Haaland’s confirmation as Interior Secretary would be groundbreaking. She would be the first Native American to hold such a post, overseeing a department that is tasked with carrying out the federal government’s treaty obligations with Indigenous tribes. She would also be the first Interior Secretary in recent years to take office with concrete commitments to fulfill the department’s mission of promoting conservation, rather than shepherding public resources to the oil and gas industry for private benefit. The Senate should act quickly to confirm her nomination, and President Biden should heed her advice in stopping fracking and related pipelines.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Action. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Historic Offshore Wind Lease Sale in California Gets Over $750 Million in Winning Bids

"If we build on today's forward momentum, the United States can dramatically reduce its global warming emissions and become a global leader in renewable energy technologies like deep-water offshore wind."

Brett Wilkins ·


Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·


Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo