Haaland on public lands drilling: Taxpayers deserve 'a return on their investment'

Haaland on public lands drilling: Taxpayers deserve 'a return on their investment'
© Washington Examiner/Pool

Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandInterior recommends imposing higher costs for public lands drilling Overnight Energy & Environment — White House announces new climate office Biden administration approves second offshore wind project off Rhode Island MORE said Friday that taxpayers deserve “a return on their investment” when asked what changes or different approaches are needed for the country’s oil and gas program. 

Currently, the Biden administration has paused new leasing on federal lands and waters “pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practice.”

An interim report is expected to be completed this summer. 

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Asked what changes need to be made to fix the oil and gas leasing program, Haaland told reporters that “the American taxpayers deserve to have a return on their investment.”

“Because the program hasn’t been reviewed in a long time, they’ll be looking at a lot of things,” she added of federal scientists. “We have an obligation to make sure that this industry does the best it can for the American people.”

While on the campaign trail, President BidenJoe BidenGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE called for banning new permits for oil and gas on public land and waters and adjusting fees paid to the government for these activities to account for climate costs. It’s currently unclear whether these changes will be pursued. 

Asked what Trump administration changes will be on the top of her list to reverse, Haaland said, “I don’t know what to say. There’s so much ... there are a number of those issues that we want to look at.”

She mentioned rollbacks to protections for endangered species and migratory birds as among those she’d take on. 

“I am positive that whatever we feel needs to be changed or reversed, that we’ll do that according to the science,” Haaland added. 

The Interior Department has already said it would aim to reverse the Trump administration’s changes that removed penalties for industry when they accidentally or incidentally kill migratory birds. 

Haaland also addressed reports that chief of staff Jennifer Van der Heide had been reassigned after planning a 50-person party that was eventually canceled, saying she’ll be “remaining on my senior staff.”

She said the same of Elizabeth Klein, who Biden had planned to nominate as Haaland’s No. 2. The White House later reversed, saying it would not nominate Klein amid reports of disagreement from Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Man charged with threatening Alaska senators pleads not guilty Two women could lead a powerful Senate spending panel for first time in history MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden faces new pressure from climate groups after Powell pick Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan With extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one MORE (D-W.Va.).