To say Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had a rough day before a Senate Committee hearing last week might be considered an understatement.
First she was pummeled by Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, then politely hauled onto the carpet by Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford as the two pursued questions about the Biden administration’s continued attack on the oil and gas industry and its rush to blame Vladimir Putin for the country’s gasoline-price crisis.
Manchin tore into Haaland as she testified about the government’s five-year offshore drilling program and it left her stammering.
“Secretary Haaland, you all just put out a statement, the U.S. Department of Interior just put out a statement, and the statement basically says, ‘A proposed program is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development,’” Manchin said.
“This is from y’all’s office,” Manchin said. “So it looks like you are gonna shut everything down. Did you know y’all put this out?”
“I, I, I, I — I’m sorry, I’m sitting in this hearing, and not —” Haaland replied.
“My God — this shuts it down,” Manchin shot back. “It shows what your intent is.”
“We’re getting this at the last possible day, the last possible minute, knowing that there’s other steps to go through,” Manchin said. ‘The timing is not right that you’ve taken as long as you possibly could.”
Then it came time for Lankford to question the Secretary about why the Biden Administration is standing in the way of U.S. energy and mineral development while at the same time it calls for lower gasoline prices at the pump.
On delays for permitting offshore drilling projects
Lankford: When is the earliest we can actually start leasing?
Haaland: …So, we plan to have the proposed program by June 30, and it’s another 90 plus 60, 150 days after that…
Lankford: So you’re saying by the end of this year, by December 31, at that point with that calendar, that you would be able to start leasing at that point?
Haaland: I will absolutely keep you abreast of the progress that we’re making and make sure that this Committee knows…
Lankford: So when is the deadline on it, to be able to start leasing actually, to be able to get to this point to have this process done?
Haaland: …I don’t think there is an actual deadline.
Lankford: That’s the concern actually that all of us have is that there’s actually no deadline, that the proposal to talk about it is coming on the date that it should be done and that this is going to then stretch out for the next two or three years of talking about it. And so we’re trying to figure out: when’s the deadline to start leasing?
On obstacles to domestic mineral production due to the Biden Administration’s policies
Lankford: The Administration talks a lot about critical minerals development, in the southwest, there is a company that has gone through the leasing process to actually do leasing since 2017 on lithium in that area, and now there is a pretty dramatic change where there’s been a withholding of the core of their lithium deposit that they’re now saying, ‘Well you can do all of your development but not here in the core of actually the project itself. It’s being held out.’ All they’re looking for is for the information of how this decision’s made and what they can actually get public about the actual mineral process itself. All they want is just engagement, but they’re not getting the engagement at this point. And this is lithium deposits, which I understand we’re trying to go after.
On Biden’s “checkerboard” of approvals of on-shore development leases stifling production
Lankford: I’m interacting with companies that are saying there’s a checkerboard of leases, and yes they’re producing. But they’ve got a lease, and they can’t get the leases around it. So they’re not going to go develop that lease until they know they can actually lease around it. So this checkerboard is not being made available to them. So they’re saying, ‘Just drill on what you’ve got,’ and they’re saying, ‘Well, we’re not going to really do long-term, intensive development there, bring in additional employees, bring in additional supplies until we know we can actually connect these leases and do more development, but that’s not being allowed by your team.
Click here to view on YouTube