New York — US Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat-New Mexico, who reportedly is being considered for secretary of the Interior Department by President-elect Joe Biden, said there are too many extractive industries operating on federal lands and that leasing practices should be changed to encourage more clean energy activity.
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Federal land policy will be "extremely critical" in the effort to mitigate climate change impacts in the next presidential administration, Haaland said in an webcast interview with Reuters during the virtual Energy Transition North America Conference.
"Renewable energy is the future of our world, it's the future of our country and we need bold action on climate change," Haaland said.
That is what Biden plans to do, Haaland said, adding she "wholeheartedly" supports that agenda.
Federal lands currently account for roughly 25% of US carbon dioxide emissions, which means there are "far too many extractive industry leases and not enough renewable energy leases," she said.
Additionally, outdoor industries like tours and hunting rely on a clean water and air, and our public lands should make sure we are moving toward clean energy, she said.
Federal land leases
Asked about the Trump administration policy of "energy dominance" extending to federal lands by making it easier to obtain leases for fossil fuel development, Haaland said leasing practices need to change.
"We need to make sure we're promoting and increasing clean energy leases," she said.
This administration has not only made extractive industry operations easier on public lands, they also "gutted" the watchdogs we need to make sure they are not breaking rules, Haaland said, adding that when you eliminate environmental rules "it's easier for these industries to run roughshod."
New Mexico has a large methane cloud above it due to oil and gas production that impacts the health of the state's residents, she said.
Asked about her interest in becoming secretary of the interior, a possibility reported by multiple news outlets, Haaland said whoever is the next interior secretary will be someone who will push the Biden climate and environment policy forward.
Haaland was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018 and she said it is positive that the country has progressed to a place where having a Native American cabinet secretary is a possibility. However, she did not disclose whether she is being vetted for the position.
Haaland said New Mexico could transition to supporting more clean energy jobs given its abundant sunshine. "I believe that transitioning to renewable energy is possible in a state like ours," she said.
"We can move toward a renewable energy economy; we're not saying shut everything down today," Haaland said. "Renewable energy is an industry that we know holds a great future for so many Americans and that's what I want to move forward with."
She also said polluters should be the ones who pay for pollution like methane emissions and "it's a shame the Trump administration has given so many people a free pass."