January 4, 2021
“I come from New Mexico. It’s a big gas and oil state. And I care about every single job,” Haaland said. But she added: “We don’t want to go back to normal, right?”
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples according to a December 17, 2020 Washington Post report.
With that selection and others this week, Biden sent a clear message that top officials charged with confronting the nation’s environmental problems will have a shared experience with the Americans who have disproportionately been affected by toxic air and polluted land.
“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted. “ … I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
In selecting 60-year-old Haaland, a member of Pueblo of Laguna, Biden has placed the descendant of the original people to populate North America atop a 171-year-old institution that has often had a fraught relationship with the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes.
Four divisions of Interior have a tremendous impact on Indian Country, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, The Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which manages billions held in trust by the U.S. government.
Now, after serving a single term in Congress, Haaland will oversee a department that manages roughly one-fifth of land in the U.S. While she hails from a top oil-and gas-producing state, Haaland has pledged to transform the department from a champion of fossil fuel development into a promoter of renewable energy and policies to mitigate climate change.
“I come from New Mexico. It’s a big gas and oil state. And I care about every single job,” Haaland said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. But she added: “We don’t want to go back to normal, right? We don’t want to go back to where we were because that economy wasn’t working for a lot of people.”
Biden, meanwhile, has pledged to halt all new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. But that’s a daunting task that faces both legal and political obstacles. The extraction of oil, gas and coal in these areas accounts for nearly a quarter of the nation’s annual carbon output.
In a sign of the opposition the administration will soon face, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association issued a statement noting drilling on federal land generates $800 million annually for the state’s government. “We hope Rep. Haaland will employ a balanced approach that considers the needs of all who depend on public lands, including the thousands of men and women and families whose livelihoods depend on access to public lands for resource development,” the group said.
Interior oversees vast protected areas — including 75 million acres of wilderness and 422 national park sites, as well as national monuments and wildlife refuges. It safeguards more than 1,000 endangered species, and manages massive water projects in the West that help sustain farmland and provide drinking water for major cities including Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
What this means to you
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples.
MIRATECH can help
CONTACT MIRATECH for stationary engine emission control solutions on Department of Interior lands.