BLM hosts roundtable discussion about federal funding for orphaned wells

Randy Pacheco, the chief executive officer of the San Juan Basin-based A-Plus Well Service, said the state’s workforce needs to be built up to address the orphaned oil and natural gas wells that dot the landscape in many states including New Mexico. 

Pacheco was one of the panelists who participated in a roundtable-style webinar discussion about the federal orphaned well program and the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to implement it. The bureau hosted the webinar, which drew hundreds of people, on Thursday. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in November provided $4.7 billion for clean-up, remediation and restoration at orphaned well sites. That led to the U.S. Department of the Interior releasing initial guidelines on Dec. 17 for states to apply for funding.

2021 Top Stories #5: Deb Haaland becomes Interior Secretary

See our entire countdown of 2021 top stories, to date, here. A Native American woman took the helm of the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the first time ever in March after being nominated for the post by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Senate confirmed Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo and native New Mexican, as the Secretary of the Interior on March 15 on a 51 to 40 vote. Related: Haaland confirmed as Interior Secretary

Haaland previously served as a congresswoman representing New Mexico’s First Congressional District. She stepped down from that role upon being confirmed to her new position.

Interior oil and gas review met with mixed reactions

While environmental activists praise various aspects of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s newly released report on federal oil and gas leasing and permitting processes, some say the report is incomplete and fails to account for the impact fossil fuel emissions have on climate change. The department released the report to comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This executive order directed the Department of the Interior to review leasing and permitting processes. The report was released Friday and consists of 18 pages. 

The report includes recommendations such as raising royalty rates, charging more for rent and requiring higher levels of bonding. 

While the recommendations are supported by the environmental advocates, many of whom have been pushing for such reforms for years,  some say that the recommendations do not go far enough to address the climate crisis. “We’re sympathetic to the political gauntlet the Biden administration must run, but it had a choice to run it with power, speed, and agility. Instead, it’s running that gauntlet, weak, slow, and tentative,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, in a press release.

Interior begins process to end new oil and gas leasing near Chaco for 20 years

President Joe Biden’s administration took steps today to begin the process of banning new oil and gas leases within a 10 mile buffer zone of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for 20 years. Monday, the president announced a series of initiatives focused on Indigenous communities, including the Chaco Canyon buffer zone. This came during the Tribal Nations Summit. The president instructed the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate the process for withdrawing the area around the park from new oil and gas leasing for two decades. Over the last decade, Native American groups in both Arizona and New Mexico have been lobbying for protections of the sacred Chaco region from oil and gas development, leading to several congressional actions that temporarily deferred leasing.

Deb Haaland resigns as she takes over reins of Interior Department

Deb Haaland delivered her final speech in Congress on Tuesday. Haaland resigned from her congressional seat a day after her confirmation as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. “I thought I would have more time here, but we are called to service in different ways. Though I’m excited to become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history,” she said. “I’m also sad to leave this chamber.”

She won her second reelection in the 1st Congressional District last November, then President Joe Biden picked her to head the Secretary of the Interior.

Haaland confirmed as Interior Secretary

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior on a 51-40 vote Monday afternoon. With the vote, Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, became the first Native American cabinet-level official in U.S. history and put her in charge of a sprawling department with key interactions with sovereign tribal governments. The Interior Department is the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Thank you to the U.S. Senate for your confirmation vote today,” Haaland said on Twitter after the vote. “As Secretary of @Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you.

Haaland nomination to head Interior heads to full Senate

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the Interior Department. The committee voted 11-9, with Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting along with Democrats, to send the nomination to the full Senate. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was among the Democrats who voted to advance Haaland’s nomination. “I am pleased that Congresswoman Haaland’s confirmation is advancing, and I am eager for the full Senate to take up her nomination so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations,” Heinrich said. Heinrich, a second-term Senator, has been a key voice supporting Haaland’s nomination.

Another key Senator signals support for Haaland’s nomination to head Interior

In another sign that U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior, a Republican announced she would vote in favor of confirmation. Maine’s Susan Collins told HuffPost that she would vote for the confirmation. “After examining Representative Deb Haaland’s qualifications, reviewing her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and meeting with her personally, I will vote to confirm her to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior,” Collins told the news outlet. Haaland would become the first Native American cabinet-level official once confirmed. She was one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress, along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, in 2018.

Haaland likely headed for confirmation as Interior Secretary after hearing

The most significant news for U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s Interior Secretary nomination didn’t come during the second day of her confirmation hearing, but afterwards. That’s because U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, announced he would vote in favor of her nomination. With an evenly split 50-50 chamber between those who caucus with Democrats and Republicans, Manchin has an outsized influence on nominations. Manchin is also the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which held the confirmation hearing for Haaland this week. The committee also has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Report: Biden chooses Haaland for Interior Secretary

President-elect Joe Biden will name Deb Haaland as his nominee to head the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to a report by the Washington Post on Thursday, ending weeks of rumors and pushes by various factions in the form of anonymous quotes and leaks. If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to hold the key position regarding public lands and environmental issues throughout the country. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, one of New Mexico’s 23 federally recognized tribes and pueblos. Tribes have long had tensions with the Interior Department, over things like oil and gas drilling. As for Haaland, she—and other members of the congressional delegation—were behind a push to protect land around Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development.