As Senate Debates Interior Nominee, the Department Moves on Climate Change


Ms. Greenberger noted that actions like suspending the Trump-era rule that gutted protections for migratory birds required particularly fast planning since the Biden administration had only a short window to act before the rule was set to take effect, on Feb. 8. Similarly when an Alaska Native group missed a deadline to conduct a seismic survey in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the department moved to effectively kill the survey.

“There was an enormous amount of thought put in during the transition, especially into understanding what needed to happen and what were the opportunities,” Ms. Greenberg said.

Critics took a dimmer view.

“Makes you wonder if they’re treating the new secretary as a figurehead and the deputies are going forward with what they had planned regardless,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based oil and natural gas association.

In a statement Jennifer Van der Heide, chief of staff at the Department of Interior, said those already in place at the agency are working to implement Mr. Biden’s campaign promises until Ms. Haaland is confirmed.

“There are some actions we can or must move quickly on, but when we have a secretary, she will provide the leadership, experience and vision to restore morale within the department, build a clean energy economy, strengthen the nation-to-nation relationships with tribes, and inspire a movement to better conserve our nation’s lands, waters, and wildlife,” Ms. Van der Heide said.

The Interior Department manages about 500 million acres of public lands and vast coastal waters. Its agencies lease many of those acres for oil and gas drilling as well as wind and solar farms. It oversees the country’s national parks and wildlife refuges, protects threatened and endangered species, reclaims abandoned mine sites, oversees the government’s relationship with the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes, and provides scientific data about the effects of climate change.

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