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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Biden’s Interior Department nominee dismisses the industry that fuels her home state

Since New Mexico will feel the brunt of President Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas drilling, it would seem an elected official from the state would be well positioned to answer questions about federal land management and energy development.

That opportunity will come on Tuesday morning when Rep. Deb Haaland, who has represented New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District since 2019, appears before the U.S. Senate as Biden’s nominee to serve as the next secretary for the Interior Department.

Since the congresswoman would be the first Native American to occupy the Cabinet position, the media have predictably celebrated her as a diversity pick. But the media are not asking any hard questions about the anti-energy policies flowing out of Biden’s Interior Department, which directly affect the people in New Mexico whom Haaland supposedly represents.

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That’s why Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group that favors free market energy policies, is doing it for them.

The AEA cites figures that show the U.S. oil industry now pumps about 12 million barrels a day, with shale-oil companies accounting for about 8 million barrels of that total, which is roughly 8% to 10% of the global supply of oil. America’s accelerated pace of domestic energy production has been possible through the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have freed the U.S. from relying upon unfriendly, unstable regions of the world to supply its energy needs.

With these facts in mind, here are some of the AEA’s suggested questions:

  • “As the child of two parents who served in the U.S. military, what is your view on energy security and responsibilities to our allies overseas?”
  • “If America is able to aid our allies with plentiful, affordable natural gas, what would your message be to nations like Ukraine when denying them natural gas (in the form of delivered liquified natural gas — LNG)?”
  • “What is your view of the federal government’s regulatory role? What should it do, and just as importantly, what shouldn’t it do?”

Here’s why these questions are relevant to the nominee’s home state.

At least half of New Mexico’s oil and gas production occurs on federal lands, and the revenue generated from oil and gas funds almost 40% of the state’s budget. Biden’s Interior Department initiated a 60-day suspension of new oil and gas drilling permits on Jan. 21, which could cost New Mexico tens of thousands of jobs while jeopardizing more than $1 billion in state revenue if the ban becomes permanent, according to a new study from trade associations.

Since a report from the Congressional Research Service shows the federal government owns about 640 million acres of land, which is about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States, the AEA would like for senators to ask Haaland if she supports the U.S. government owning so much land. If so, then senators could ask her to explain why and, if not, then senators could ask how she might go about reducing federally owned or managed lands.

Since the nominee has a history of vilifying the process of hydraulic fracturing, which has enabled oil and gas development, it’s worth noting that her state received $2.8 billion of revenue last year thanks to the oil and gas industry, which amounted to a third of the state’s general funds according to figures cited by the AEA. Once again, it is the operations on federal land that make this revenue stream possible for New Mexico.

Since these funds are used to support schools, build roads, and support first responders, the AEA would like for senators to ask Haaland the following:

  • “Do you not consider this revenue, and the services they support, a benefit to New Mexico? How would your home state be able to make up that huge shortfall in the budget were you to eliminate oil and gas production on federal lands?”

“Representative Haaland has made disparaging comments not only about domestic oil and natural gas production, but also about the workers themselves,” Pyle said in a press release. “She has made clear her opposition to the technology of fracking and the construction of new pipelines. As a representative from New Mexico, she should know better. Her state depends on oil and gas production on federal lands to support schools, build roads, and support first responders. She is simply the wrong choice for the Department of Interior.”

Kevin Mooney (@KevinMooneyDC) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an investigative reporter in Washington, D.C., who writes for several national publications.

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