Interior Secretary Haaland MIA While Staff Looked at Ways to Kill Federal Oil and Gas Leasing

Neutered final report scrubs evidence of climate radicalism at Department of the Interior.

June 23, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Interior Secretary Haaland was completely out of the loop for months as subordinates schemed to cease energy development on federal land and water, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by government watchdog, Functional Government Initiative.

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the Secretary of the Interior to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices….” Interior was to evaluate “potential climate and other impacts” of oil and gas leasing and recommend whether to adjust royalties paid for oil and gas production to account for “climate costs.” There was no suggestion that the cessation of oil and gas leasing on federal lands was an option.

Interior Secretary Haaland initially said the report, so consequential for the nation’s energy supply at a time when gas prices were beginning to climb, would be available by early summer 2021.

However, the records show that she was intentionally left out of the discussion by Interior Department political appointees. Meanwhile, Interior performed an economic analysis that reveals it was contemplating the elimination of all oil and gas leasing on federal lands. In the analysis, DOI asked what the impact would be to revenues if there were to be zero acres leased for fossil fuel production. This analysis came mere months after the United States had effectively obtained energy independence.

Secretary Haaland seems to have had no idea what her subordinates were up to. On June 9, Interior’s top legal officer Robert Anderson sent the report to the White House, noting it was “the product of a tremendous amount of staff work and outreach. We have not provided it to Secretary Haaland for her review because we first want to get your comments and edits.”

Six weeks later, on July 27, appearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Haaland apparently was still in the dark about the substance of the report and was unable to discuss the report in any meaningful way. Appearing confused by questioning by Senators on the issue, she merely said an “interim report,” was “set for release … and will be released soon.”

No interim report was released to the public, and the final report was not issued until November 2021.  By then, gas prices had made Interior’s “zero acres” plan unworkable and likely politically dangerous. The final product was far weaker than the no-leasing scenario put forth by Interior, stating that royalties should be higher while energy development should be deprioritized.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“While every American should be grateful Interior’s radical plan to cripple U.S. energy production ultimately did not see the light of day, the fact that it got as far as it did, apparently without Secretary Haaland’s oversight or even input, is troubling. Her subordinates felt comfortable going around the secretary, and she had such a limited understanding of what was happening at her own department that she was unable to provide meaningful answers to questions posed at a Senate committee hearing. This was no typical government report but one mandated by the president, with nothing less than American energy independence at stake. Interior’s actions represent the epitome of government dysfunction.”