Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans

Aaron Schwartz

HAPPY TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

FROM THE SHORT LIST TO THE SHORTER LIST: The Biden transition team is in the process of vetting Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) for the Interior secretary post, sources told The Hill on Tuesday.

The development came after Haaland dropped out of the three-way leadership race for House Democratic Caucus vice chairwoman.

If tapped by President-elect Joe Biden, Haaland’s nomination would be historic, making her the first Native American Cabinet secretary, overseeing an agency with vast responsibility over tribal issues and public lands. In 2018, she became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.). 

More than half of the president-elect’s transition team is comprised of women and nearly half of its members are people of color; Biden has also vowed that his new Cabinet and administration will be very diverse and “look like America.”

Haaland, the former chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party who just won reelection to the House, did not respond directly when asked why she suddenly dropped out of this week’s leadership race.

“We have an opportunity to unify our caucus, plan for the future, and support working families while we’re facing the challenges that have come from an administration who didn’t take this pandemic seriously,” Haaland said in a statement.

“I’ve deeply appreciated this process — discussing priorities, getting to better know my colleagues, and their districts and issues, and also answering questions about Indian Country. I look forward to continuing these conversations with a united caucus, laser-focused on healing and rebuilding our country.”

Haaland, 59, has previously expressed interest in the role. In an interview with the Huffington Post last week, Haaland said “of course” she was interested in leading the Interior Department.

The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it is not clear if they are also vetting other candidates. Other names being considered to lead the Interior Department include retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), whose father was Interior secretary in the 1960s, and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Read more on the transition here

ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE: Progressive environmental group Sunrise Movement on Tuesday criticized President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) to be his senior adviser over Richmond’s fossil fuel donations. 

The group called the appointment of Richmond, who was also a National Co-Chairman of the Biden campaign, a “betrayal.”

“One of President-Elect Biden’s very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise,” said Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director, in a statement. 

“That’s a mistake, and it’s an affront to young people who made President-Elect Biden’s victory possible. President-Elect Biden assured our movement he understands the urgency of this crisis; now, it’s time for him to act like it,” Prakash added. 

In response to the statement, a Biden-Harris transition official stressed that the president-elect “knows that climate change is the challenge that will define our American future,” in an email to The Hill. 

“The incoming White House staff members are committed to building an administration that will tackle the climate crisis and fight for environmental justice,” the official said. 

Richmond, who represents parts of the New Orleans area, had nearly $113,000 in campaign donations this cycle from the oil and gas sector, more than any other sector that donated to his campaign, according to Open Secrets. 

He was also one of a few Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Read more on the opposition here

IN COURT: A coalition of six environmental groups is suing the Trump administration for its plans to expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA).  

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized the Willow Project last month, allowing ConocoPhillips to produce up to 590 million total barrels of oil over the next 30 years.

“We are heading to court to stop the U.S. Department of the Interior’s brazen rush to drill anywhere it can in the Arctic,” Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director of Defenders of Wildlife, one of the groups suing over the move, said in a release. 

“The massive Willow project threatens the future of imperiled Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, other wildlife and people that call the Arctic home. As the Arctic continues to melt at alarming rates and the signs of climate change are all around us, the agency has just doubled-down on its plan to drill in the Arctic,” she stated.

The NPRA is next to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and boasts many of the same species.

The plan allows for 50 wells on each pad, new roads across the reserve, a new airstrip and a pipeline.

The suit alleges BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, both of which require careful review of how a project will affect the land, local animal populations and nearby communities. 

Read more on the suit here


  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on whether to advance the nominations of Democrat Allison Clements and Republican Mark Christie as FERC commissioners. 
  • The Energy and Natural Resources Committee will also hold a hearing on a series of bills. Officials with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are slated to appear. 


The ‘war on coal’ is over. The next climate battle has just begun, The Los Angeles Times reports

A youth group helped Biden win. Now they want him to fix climate crisis, The Guardian reports

Funding for climate disasters ‘failing’ those most vulnerable, says IFRC, Reuters reports 

Solvay withholds data about toxic PFAS pollution in New Jersey, The Intercept reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday…

Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans

Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry

Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary

Tags Cedric Richmond Deb Haaland Joe Biden Martin Heinrich Sharice Davids Tom Udall

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