Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden’s pick to head the agency in charge millions of acres of federal land and its energy infrastructure, defended on Tuesday joining protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) questioned Haaland as a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He told her his state is an “energy powerhouse for this nation” and second only to Texas in the production of oil.
“We’ve got to have transmission lines and pipelines to move energy to market,” Hoeven said. “We’ve got to have that infrastructure.”
“A very good example of that is the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has now been operating for three years safely moving over a half a million barrels of light, sweet crude oil a day to refineries,” Hoeven said, adding that if protestors had had their way it would make the U.S. more dependent on foreign sources like Saudi Arabia to meet American demand for oil.
“You were there and protested the pipeline,” Hoeven said.
“Senator, yes, I did go to stand with the water protectors during that — several years back,” Haaland said. “The reason I did that is because I agreed with the tribe that they felt they weren’t consulted in the best way. I know that tribal consultation is important, and that was the reason that I was there.”
Haaland’s Congressional website features an essay titled “Fierce” about her participation in the protest, which lasted for weeks until winter weather set in.
In 2016, Debra Haaland cooked green chili and tortillas at the Standing Rock Sioux camps pitched against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Bringing food was her traditional way of contributing to the fight against the $3.8 billion pipeline.
She stayed in the camps for four days that September, but the environmental cause she came to support has resounded not only within her, but around the world.
“I first saw it on Facebook, but more and more people were coming out here from New Mexico and posting their experiences on Facebook and I just realized that I should come,” Haaland said. She is now one of the first female Native Representatives for New Mexico.
“Are you still opposed to that pipeline?” Hoeven asked. “What is your position on the pipeline today?”
Haaland answered by repeating her support for Indian tribes being consulted on projects that she said impact their land and sacred sites, even if the Dakota Access Pipeline’s pathway is not on tribal land.
“Well, senator I know it’s an important issue for you and I understand that,” Haaland said. “I also agree that whenever these projects come up that we are absolutely sure that we are consulting with tribes.”
“I’m happy to get briefed on any of these issues if confirmed and of course senator I would listen to you, and consult with you, and work with you to the best of my ability,” Haaland said.
Hoeven ended his first round of questioning by asking Haaland if she is confirmed at Interior secretary if she would recuse herself from any decision regarding the pipeline to avoid any conflict of interest.
Haaland did not answer directly but said that she would leave that decision to people at the agency who cover legal issues.
The committee will resume questioning at Haaland’s second confirmation hearing, set at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
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