President-elect Joe Biden’s apparent nomination of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to head the U.S. Department of the Interior for the incoming administration was denounced by New Mexico oil and gas industry leaders and extraction supporters who feared Haaland’s environmental record could mean stricter restrictions on the fossil fuel sector.
Under the administration of President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the U.S. saw numerous years of record-breaking oil and gas production as the Permian Basin which spans southeast New Mexico and West Texas became one of the world’s most productive shale plays.
But the increase in operations drew fears of heightened pollution through natural gas emissions and taxed water supplies as the boom in production was led by the practice of hydraulic fracturing.
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Haaland, a frequent supporter of stricter regulations on the industry and opponent of the federal government’s recent efforts to rollback rules at the Bureau of Land Management – overseen by the Department of the Interior – and the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating methane emissions, would lead the federal department tasked with oversight and facilitation of oil and gas production on federal land.
Most New Mexico’s extraction activities, particularly in the Permian Basin, take place on federally-owned managed by the Department of the Interior.
The nomination presented “serious concerns,” said Jim Winchester, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico.
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“Ms. Haaland has repeatedly demonstrated contempt towards our industry, especially regarding the need for a balanced approach to public land management,” he said. “We urge congressional leaders to closely examine her anti-oil & gas record as they consider this selection.”
Ryan Flynn, director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association called on Haaland to use a “balanced approach” in considering the needs of the fossil fuel industry he said New Mexico depends on as a major driver of the state’s economy and funding for public services like education and infrastructure.
Flynn said federal mineral development accounts for about $800 million of New Mexico’s budget and half of its oil and gas production.
“The policies enacted by the next Interior Secretary and administration will have enormous impact on our state and will determine how our much or little our state is able to support critical needs like public schools, healthcare, and first responders,” he said.
“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.”
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Daniel Turner, executive director of Power the Future – a pro-fossil fuel advocacy group – said Haaland’s selection marked the most “radical” selection of a U.S. cabinet member in the country’s history.
He said the representative was supportive of the Green New Deal, a collection of policies proposed by Democrat members of congress to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuel development seen by many as “extreme” and detrimental to the extraction industry and capable of costing Americans $70,000 per household, per a Power to the Future study.
“This is the most radical Cabinet that our country has ever seen,” Turner said. “Biden has long claimed to be a moderate, but who one surrounds themselves with says a lot about a person. Biden’s team sends a clear message: he is a proud member of the eco-left.”
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The Republican Party of New Mexico also opposed Haaland’s nomination, contending she would “destroy” New Mexico’s energy industry.
Party Chairman Steve Pearce argued Haaland not only supported the Green New Deal but was a frequent opponent of fracking and supporter of the Biden administration’s alleged plans to ban oil and gas leasing on federal land.
“Rep. Haaland has constantly voiced her opposition to fracking on federal lands,” Pearce said. “With her as Secretary, she will destroy New Mexico’s vital energy industry.
But environmental groups in New Mexico praised Haaland’s selection as a supporter of efforts to mitigate climate change through conservation and environmentalist policy.
“Representative Haaland has been a steadfast champion of bold climate action, environmental justice, and protection of public lands and imperiled wildlife,” said John Horning, executive director of New Mexico-based WildEarth Guardians.
“We need bold vision and compassionate leadership in times of crisis and we’re confident that Representative Haaland will meet the challenges that a new Interior Secretary will face.”
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Mark Allison, executive director at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance said Haaland had a proven record of push environmental efforts amid the threats posed by extraction in New Mexico and throughout the U.S.
“Congresswoman Haaland is a fantastic choice to lead Interior into a new and more hopeful era,” Allison said. “She was a fierce defender of public lands long before she ever stepped foot into the halls of Congress and has continued the good fight from the minute she was sworn into office.”
And as an indigenous woman, Allison said Haaland’s could provide a voice for Native American groups underrepresented in the state and nation in land management decisions.
“Indigenous voices have been underrepresented at Interior for far too long,” he said. “As the first indigenous Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Haaland will lead the charge to improve relations between Tribal Nations and the federal government.”
In a statement accepting the nomination, Haaland made no mention specifically about the extraction industry, but vowed to continue her work in addressing climate change and moving American toward renewable energy.
“As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior has a role and I will be a partner in addressing these challenges by protecting our public lands and moving our country towards a clean energy future,” the statement read.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: New Mexico oil and gas industry condemns Deb Haaland nomination as secretary of interior
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