Overnight Energy: Haaland making moves: Discusses public lands drilling, creates unit to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans
IT’S FINALLY FRIDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news.
Today (and last night) was all about Interior, with Secretary Deb Haaland telling reporters that taxpayers should get a “return on their investment” amid questions on oil and gas and setting up a new unit to investigate missing and murdered Indigenous people. The department also announced that it estimates it’ll create nearly 19,000 jobs through improvement projects.
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DRILLING DOWN: Haaland on public lands drilling: Taxpayers deserve ‘a return on their investment’
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland 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.
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.”
What Trump-era rules are on the chopping block?: 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.
INVESTIGATING THE ISSUE: Haaland creates unit to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the U.S.’s first Indigenous cabinet secretary, has created a unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans, the department announced Thursday evening.
There are some 1,500 American Indian and Alaska natives in the National Crime Information Center’s database of missing persons, while about 2,700 murders and nonnegligent homicides have been reported to the federal Uniform Crime Reporting program.
Native American women in particular are the victims of murder at over 10 times the national average, according to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. Homicides are the No. 3 cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native girls and women ages 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal government formed a task force on the issue in 2019 to pursue such cases.
What will the new unit do? Haaland said the new unit will expand on that work and establish a unit chief position to develop policy for the unit. The unit will review unsolved cases and work with tribal, BIA and FBI investigators on active cases as well, according to the department.
“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” Haaland said in a statement. “The new MMU unit will provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families.”
LONG-TERM PARKING: Interior says parks maintenance fund will go to 165 projects, support 19K jobs this year
The Interior Department said Friday that it will create nearly 19,000 jobs through improvement projects in national parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education schools through funding allocated last year from a bipartisan conservation bill.
According to a statement issued by the department, this year will see a $1.6 billion investment in 165 deferred maintenance projects that will improve recreation facilities, historic structures, roads, trails, bridges and more.
The department said this will support about 18,851 jobs and add $2 billion to the country’s gross domestic product this year.
“We must address the long-delayed maintenance needs of the nation’s aging buildings and infrastructure. Importantly, this funding also honors our commitment to Tribal communities by investing in Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools for current and future generations,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.
For example… The first major investment will be $3 million to restore the Jefferson Memorial’s exterior in Washington, D.C., including using lasers to remove algae, fungi and bacteria.
A refresher: The legislation, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, provided up to $1.6 billion annually for five years for the fund being used for the improvement projects.
It also permanently allocated $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps the federal government acquire new land for parks and trails and works to protect sensitive forest and endangered species habitat.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
Fossil Fuel Companies Took Billions in U.S. Coronavirus Relief Funds but Still Cut Nearly 60,000 Jobs, InsideClimate News reports
Business lobby group files restraining order against Wisconsin ‘forever chemical’ testing program, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports
Environmental groups demand governor remove Colorado Air Pollution Control director, call for independent investigation, The Colorado Sun reports
Ohio Gov. DeWine signs repeal of nuclear bailout, other parts of scandal-tainted bill, Cleveland.com reports
JUST FOR FUN: It’s a doggone thief!