President Joe Biden has picked Deb Haaland to be his Secretary of the Interior. It’s exactly the kinds of barrier breaking, fossil fuel busting, build-back-better choice we had in mind when we started talking about the need for a Fossil Free Cabinet.
If confirmed, Haaland wouldn’t just be the first indigenous woman to run the department that oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs (though she would be, and how great is that?); She’d also be the highest ranking official in Biden’s cabinet to support a Green New Deal, oppose fracking, and support a detailed plan to end fossil fuels on public lands.
That’s why Republicans are already attacking Haaland. Senator John Barrasso, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, said Haaland’s approach “cuts the throat” of his constituents.
The racist “cowboys and indians” trope aside, Haaland is expected to face one of the toughest confirmation fights of anyone in Biden’s cabinet. And with confirmation votes starting this week on President Biden’s other climate nominees – including Jenifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy and Michael Regan to lead the EPA – this is the moment to increase our pressure and show Biden and Haaland we’ve got their backs.
We also don’t know when President Biden will start the clock on Haaland’s nomination because it’s dangerous to leaver her seat in the US House vacant for too long with the narrow Democratic majorities in both chambers. Combine those scheduling complications with Republican’s racist, fossil-fueled opposition to Biden’s climate cabinet, and we know this will be a fight.
But Haaland’s nomination is a groundbreaking event that’s worth fighting over — the first Indigenous person to lead a department with a history of hostility to Indigenous people that stretches from the trail of tears to Standing Rock. Haaland herself went to stand with water protectors and block the Dakota Access Pipeline, and often cites her experience fighting for environmental and human rights as a reason she’s an original Green New Deal.
Since being elected in 2018, she’s distinguished herself as both a subcommittee chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and an individual member of Congress. She has the experience needed to run the Department of the Interior. And as a fierce climate hawk, she’ll work hard to keep fossil fuels in the ground.