Interior Department Breathes New Life Into Climate Accountability, Social Justice
Environmental nonprofit WildEarth Guardians lauded Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for her latest decisions protecting the environment, public lands, as well as restoring accountability, scrutiny, transparency, and justice in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"Today is a watershed moment in the history of the U.S. Department of the Interior," said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program director, in a statement. The environment nonprofit recognizes Secretary Haaland's actions as a testament to her efforts toward communities, science, and justice. Nichols extended gratitude for her "bold action to put people over polluters."
Haaland's Actions for the Interior
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has recently issued a pair of Secretarial Orders last April 1, both of which are directed at addressing the Interior Department's sordid track record of support for fossil fuel interests, efforts toward climate denial, and supposedly supporting environmental injustice - most policies put into place by the previous administration.
The first one, Secretarial Order 3398, reverses multiple orders from the Interior under the Trump administration that basically used the department's platform for climate and science denial, as well as prioritizing fossil fuel interests under the pretense of "energy dominance." Under the previous orders, the U.S. saw more lands opened for fracking and mining, as well as streamlining environmental reviews, cutting the public out of managing public lands and resources, and pushing denial of climate science.
More importantly, Secretarial Order 3398 allowed Secretary Deb Haaland to rescind a previous Secretarial Order that lifted a federal coal leasing moratorium. With the latest move from the Interior, the moratorium on coal leasing first adopted during the Obama administration is effectively back in effect.
"Today's Orders makes certain that the Interior Department is no longer going to serve as a rubberstamp for the coal and oil and gas industries," the WildEarth Guardians director adds. He says that Secretary Haaland's actions will "set the stage for deep reforms" in the Interior that would set the federal government "out of the business of fossil fuels and into the business of confronting the climate crisis."
On the other hand, Secretarial Order 3399 sets the Interior Department to take a series of actions that aligns its agencies with climate science and action. The second Secretarial Order creates a climate task force, requires consultation and cooperation with native tribal governments.
The Biden Administration's Commitment to Society, Environment
"The Interior Department is in a powerful position to drive bold action for the climate in the United States," Nichols added, with Haaland's actions showing the commitment of the Biden administration to "rein in fossil fuels and make climate action and climate justice a reality."
The concrete actions from Secretary Deb Haaland come after different groups - tribal communities, justice, and climate organizations like WildEarth Guardians - called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and to phase out federal production of oil, gas, and coal.
The WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program director noted: "We can't have fossil fuels and a safe climate." The grassroots nonprofit reiterated the importance of the Secretarial Orders to push the climate battle forward.
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