President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Interior, New Mexico Democrat Rep. Deb Haaland, struggled Wednesday to say whether and why she supports the controversial decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline.
Pressed by Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch, Haaland eventually said that she supports Biden’s decision to hit a pause on the cross-border presidential permit needed to continue pipeline's construction.
“If I say that I support President Biden’s agenda, I assume that you could take my answer as a yes,” Haaland said after Risch directly asked if she supported “shutting down the Keystone pipeline” several times.
Risch pressed Haaland to explain why she supports a move that Republicans have said will kill thousands of jobs.
“One of the reasons why is, I support President Biden,” she told the hearing’s panel. “I think he’s thought deeply about these things, and I think that he cares deeply about our environment, and I do as well.”
Risch again pushed back asking for her specific reasoning on why she supports shutting down the pipeline that was set to carry oil directly from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Neb., where it would join an existing pipeline.
“I’m not sure that I have a full answer for you, other than to say that there are people in this country who care deeply about our environment, and that is one area that folks have been passionate about,” she said. “I know that there is a lot of passion on both sides of the issue.”
If confirmed as Secretary of Interior, Haaland would be the first Native American to serve in the role -- overseeing not only environmental policies in the U.S. like fracking and oil drilling, but how communities are tied to federal and public land protections.
Congressional Republicans are frustrated by the Biden administration’s decision to hit pause on U.S. oil and gas projects but not escalate sanctions on Russia’s North Stream 2 pipeline -- which would funnel gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
Biden previously condemned the plan as a “bad deal” for Europe but has yet to increase sanctions previously enforced under the Trump administration.
“It would seem to me that the administration could spend a good amount of its energy on stopping those jobs in Russia, which is a national security issue for us," Risch said. "And yet instead they’re using their energy to do this to American workers, which just doesn’t seem logical,” he concluded.