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Hearing For Interior Nominee Deb Haaland Focuses On Oil And Gas

New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Interior Department, delivers an opening statement as her Senate confirmation hearing began Tuesday.

The Senate confirmation hearing for Deb Haaland, nominated to lead the Interior Department, began Tuesday. If confirmed, she'll be the nation's first Indigenous cabinet secretary and oversee federal public lands management and tribal affairs.

Haaland told senators her top priorities include pushing for more clean energy, focusing on the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and getting broadband internet service to Indian Country.

"I think if we were able to get broadband internet to make sure that Native children have the education opportunities and telehealth opportunities, that would be an excellent start," she said. 

But much of the hearing focused on how the New Mexico congresswoman views energy development on public lands in the West.

"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 her opening statement. "But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed."

Montana Sen. Steve Daines, who intends to vote against Haaland's confirmation, asked whether she would personally support a ban on fracking and new oil and gas pipelines. 

"If I am confirmed as secretary at the pleasure of the president and it would be his agenda that I would move forward," she answered. 

In the past, Haaland has been a vocal proponent of the Green New Deal, curbing fossil fuels and fighting climate change. However, she also has a bipartisan track record, according to Alaska Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, who introduced the congresswoman. 

"She will listen to you," he said. "She may not change. She and I do not agree on carbon fuels. But it's my job to convince her that she's not all right, and it's her job to convince me that I'm not all right. That's the important part about the secretary." 

Senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee plan a second round of questioning Wednesday morning. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Nate Hegyi is a roving regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at Nevada Public Radio. You can reach him at natehegyi@protonmail.com.