Murkowski Questions Interior Secretary Nominee Haaland on Alaska Priorities

Discusses Public Lands, Resource Development, and Unnecessary Executive Orders

This week, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took part in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing—the first of two— to consider the nomination of U.S. Representative Debra Haaland to serve as Secretary of the Interior. 

Haaland Hearing 02.24.21

Click here for video of Senator Murkowski.

During the hearing, Senator Murkowski acknowledged the significance of Representative Haaland being the first Native American Cabinet secretary nominee. Senator Murkowski went on to discuss public lands in Alaska and emphasized the importance of the partnership between Alaska and the Interior Department. Murkowski noted that the federal government owns over 60 percent of Alaska’s land and emphasized the importance of that land to Alaska’s economy.

“That land is critical to our resource industry which accounts for billions of dollars in wages, tax revenue, and tens of thousands of jobs. Protecting those jobs is critically important at all times, but particularly now as our state has seen the highest loss of revenue of any of the 50 states, due to COVID-19.  We have seen a 33 percent revenue loss compared to the average 1 percent loss in other states. We are hurting right now,” said Senator Murkowski. “The Executive Orders coming out of the White House call Alaska out by name. We were one of only two states in the nation specifically targeted by President Biden‘s day-one Executive Orders and have now been specifically called out on seven separate occasions.”

Senator Murkowski reiterated that the Secretary of the Interior is an incredibly significant position and asked what Representative Haaland’s approach would be with regards to resource development within a state like Alaska. She went on to discuss a number of rulemakings finalized under the previous administration that are now being litigated in courts, including the Record of Decisions for the Willow project and the Ambler Access Road project, and the issuance of leases in Alaska’s 1002 Area.

“These RODs were developed by career civil servants pursuant to all environmental laws and regulations, including NEPA, and done through regular order in an open, transparent process,” said Senator Murkowski. “So a direct question would be whether you would ensure that the Department continues to support and defend these projects and the decisions and environmental reviews that were completed by Interior’s career employees?”

Representative Haaland responded that she would get an update on the status of any litigation that is currently in the courts, but did not directly confirm whether the Department of the Interior would defend the work completed over the past couple of years. She noted that she would be “anxious to work with” Senator Murkowski and will “absolutely follow the law” if she is confirmed.

“Defending these specific projects would be critically important in following that law,” concluded Senator Murkowski.

Related Issues: Energy, Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska