Cantwell Praises “Historic Nomination” of Haaland to Lead Interior Department; Questions Nominee on Wildfires, Arctic Drilling, Coal Leasing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to consider the nomination of Representative Deb Haaland to be U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised her nomination and spoke about the importance of the position to communities throughout Washington state and the country.

At the start of her remarks, Cantwell spoke about the importance of Haaland’s nomination to be the first Native cabinet secretary and noted her role in the passage of Cantwell’s historic legislation to compensate the Spokane Tribe for lands they lost due to the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

“Congresswoman Haaland, congratulations on your historic nomination, and I so appreciate your leadership in the House,” Cantwell said. “You had one of the greatest moments, I think, for the State of Washington when you led the final passage of the Spokane settlement bill. To see a Native American woman standing there on the House floor, helping us get something passed that took such a long time. And I would venture to say that if you had been the Interior Secretary during that time period, we might have actually gotten this done sooner.”

In her Q&A with Haaland, Cantwell referenced her bipartisan wildfire legislation, signed into law by President Trump, to provide firefighters with 21st century technology and secured Haaland’s commitment to continue implementing the legislation.

“On the issue of wildfires which is a big Pacific Northwest issue, the Department of the Interior has key tools that we have now given to it in the last big fire package that we were able to work on together. This is new technology for everything from forecasting to locating firefighters to the implementation of coordination with air support. Will you commit to continue to work to rapidly implement those provisions of the last legislation on fighting fire?” Cantwell said.

Cantwell also asked the nominee about the importance of using science to make decisions about public lands and ensure the American people receive full and fair value from leasing:

“Under Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration, we were trying to get accurate assessments of the value of federal leasing of coal revenues,” Cantwell said. “When I was Ranking Member, we pushed for this because obviously we have a lot of coal trains that go right through the state of Washington… So I want to make sure, because the Trump Administration then came and overturned that assessment, I want to make sure that despite that decision that you are going to work to make sure that there is a fair value for the taxpayers on the price of coal leasing and the economic and climate impacts that it has.”

Haaland responded: “Our public lands belong to all of us and taxpayers deserve to have a fair return.”

Cantwell has long been a critic of the federal coal leasing program, which gives coal companies a sweet deal at the expense of communities and taxpayers and fails to consider the environmental impact of producing, transporting, and consuming coal.

“On the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, I wanted to make sure that you are committed to using a science-based approach when it comes to protecting the Arctic Wildlife. I’m glad that the president has taken action to put a stop on leasing but what can you tell me about your efforts to promote a science-based approach to protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge?” Cantwell asked.

“I can promise you that if I’m confirmed as secretary that we will be guided by science in all of those decisions,” Haaland responded.

Cantwell also asked Haaland to continue working with communities throughout Central Washington to implement the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan: “We were successful with Chairwoman Murkowski in passing the Yakima Basin Water Strategy Bill, which is really about focusing on helping the Pacific Northwest come up with better strategies for farming, for fishing, and for environmental issues, and I hope you’ll continue to work with us on the Yakima Basin implementation and carrying forward on good water strategy for the Northwest.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Representative Haaland is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.

Video of Representative Haaland’s floor speech on the passage of Senator Cantwell’s Spokane Tribe Equitable Compensation Act is available HERE.