Biden’s anti-drilling interior nominee once led company that profited from fossil fuels

Biden’s anti-drilling interior nominee once led company that profited from fossil fuels
Deb Haaland (Image: YouTube screen grab)

By Andrew Kerr

President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of the interior, who if confirmed will carry out his moratorium on new drilling on public lands, once led a company that profited from the generation of fossil fuels.

The nominee, New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in 2019 and pledged to vote against all new fossil fuel infrastructure before her nomination. Before her election to the House in 2018, Haaland served on the board of the Laguna Development Corporation (LDC) from 2010-2015, an organization owned by the Laguna Pueblo Native American tribe that operates a number of casinos, gas stations and other businesses.

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Among the LDC’s business portfolio is a transmix plant, which produces a fossil fuel product made out of a “mix of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel created during transportation of such fuels through a shared pipeline,” according to its website. The LDC says its transmix plant “operates 24 hours a day and produces approximately 50,000 gallons per day” and then sells the product at the company’s gas stations and convenience stores.

The LDC’s transmix plant was in operation before Haaland joined the company’s board in 2010 and is still operating today, according to its website.

Haaland was appointed as the first chairwoman of the LDC during her time with the organization. She states on her campaign website that she used her leadership position at the company to enact “policies and commitments to earth-friendly business practices.”

Haaland worked with the LDC up until she began her first term in Congress in 2019. Her 2018 financial disclosure filed with the House of Representatives reveals she earned $30,550 as an independent contractor for the LDC that year.

Haaland’s partner, Lloyd “Skip” Sayre, currently serves as the corporate director for sales and marketing at the LDC. Haaland disclosed Sayre as her partner in a disclosure form filed with the House Ethics Committee in November 2019.

Haaland’s office did not return multiple requests for comment.

Despite Haaland’s history leading an organization that profits from the generation of fossil fuels, she’s now virulently anti-fossil fuel. She was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in 2019, saying it was necessary as her “ancestral homeland is under attack from the Fossil Fuel Industry.”

She also pledged to vote against any new fossil fuel infrastructure before she was nominated to serve as Biden’s interior secretary. If confirmed, Haaland would become the first American Indian interior secretary and will oversee Biden’s moratorium on the sale of new drilling rights on federal lands.

“Fracking is a danger to the air we breathe and the water we drink, Haaland wrote in 2017,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “The auctioning off of our land for fracking and drilling serves only to drive profits to the few.”

Some Republican senators have pledged to oppose Haaland’s nomination, saying her opposition to fossil fuels is disqualifying.

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines said in February he would block Haaland’s nomination.

“I’m deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America, including her support for the Green New Deal and President Biden’s oil and gas moratorium, as well as her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline,” Daines said. “I’m not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West.

Haaland’s nomination has also drawn opposition from Republican members of the House, according to The Washington Post. Fifteen GOP representatives called on Biden to revoke her nomination, calling her a “direct threat to working men and women” because of her support for the Green New Deal.

Biden’s drilling moratorium received immediate pushback from an oil-producing American Indian tribe in Utah in late January.

“The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members,” the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee wrote to acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega on Jan. 22.

The Interior Department exempted American Indian tribes from Biden’s moratorium after receiving the Ute tribe’s letter.

The Senate Energy Committee has not yet set a date for Haaland’s confirmation hearing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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