Manchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas moratorium
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) grilled Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on the status of the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands in a hearing Tuesday.
“While I’ve supported administration’s desire to pause lease sales to make sure the American people are getting fair returns for our shared resources, we are now well — now into the early summer timeline when we were told the review would be completed,” Manchin said during a Tuesday hearing on the Interior Department’s fiscal 2022 budget request.
“We need a plan to move forward for responsible oil and gas leasing both onshore and offshore,” he added.
In response, Haaland did not commit to a specific timeline but said “the review is being finalized internally and should be out very soon.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of four GOP senators to vote to confirm Haaland, also pressed the secretary on the freeze.
“I’m not going to ask you when you think it’s coming. I hope you can sense the frustration in anticipating this and wondering when we will be able to expect you’ll be in compliance with the judge’s order,” she said, referencing a June injunction against the pause.
Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) asked Haaland about her takeaways from her recent visit to Grand Junction, Colo., the current site of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters after its 2020 relocation.
The relocation was widely praised by Republicans in western states but criticized by Democrats who called it an attempt by the Trump administration to dilute the agency’s power. Since President Biden took office, some Democrats have called for it to be moved back to Washington, while Colorado officials of both parties have called for it to remain in Grand Junction.
Describing her takeaways from the visit, Haaland told Hickenlooper: “We need to come to a decision fairly soon” as to the location of the headquarters.
“It’s important for folks to be able to know and understand what their task at hand is, and the way we do that is make sure that folks are hunkered down and know what they’re doing,” she added.
Hickenlooper acknowledged “certain of the processes” in the relocation were mishandled and said they were seemingly designed to drive some career public servants out of the agency, but added “that has nothing to do with Grand Junction and the appreciation that community … has developed with the BLM over the last year.”