Conservation and environmental groups are lauding an order issued by the newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, which reverses a slew of pro-fossil fuel actions enacted by Interior secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt during the Trump administration. According to Haaland, the actions of her predecessors were “inconsistent with the department’s commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science.”
Secretary Haaland’s order reversed a dozen actions taken by the Trump administration which blatantly sought to increase profits for the oil and gas industry, including DOI orders that attempted to increase coal mining on public lands, made it harder for states to block oil and gas pipelines; threatened marine sanctuaries by increasing offshore drilling; sought to increase drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, weakened the National Environmental Policy Act; expedited the permitting process for oil, gas and mining projects on public lands; and more.
The agency’s actions under the Trump administration, Haaland said, “tilted the balance of public land and ocean management without regard for climate change, equity or community engagement.”
Colin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation applauded the new administration's efforts towards “rescinding the previous administration’s orders that encouraged unfettered drilling in ecologically and culturally sensitive areas” and suggested that “these orders show that Secretary Haaland and President Biden are serious about fulfilling their promises on climate and working collaboratively with states and communities to conserve and restore our public lands and waters for future generations.”
Kristen Miller, conservation director at Alaska Wilderness League, said the orders "are another important step toward restoring scientific integrity, meaningful public process, and the longstanding stewardship responsibilities for America's public lands and waters at the Department of Interior. This is the type of bold and visionary leadership we need if we're to effectively fight climate change, tackle the extinction crisis, and prioritize environmental justice and tribal consultation."
In a tweet, the Western Values Project celebrated Haaland’s actions, stating that “Little by little the toxic Trump environmental legacy is being overturned.”
Today, @SecHaaland revoked a dozen pro-Big Oil and anti-environment orders from the Trump administration. Little by little the toxic Trump environmental legacy is being overturned. https://t.co/7NcoLtlk7w
— Western Values Project (@Western_Values) April 16, 2021
In addition to rescinding a slate of pro-extraction Trump administration actions, Haaland also issued Secretarial Order 3399, which establishes a Climate Task Force with the Department of Interior.
According to the order, “The Nation faces a profound climate crisis that requires the Department of the Interior to take a holistic approach to honor the Nation’s trust responsibilities; address the climate crisis; advance environmental justice; and build a clean energy future that creates good-paying jobs and powers our Nation.” The order also provides instruction on how science may be used in the agency decision-making and clarifies various Interior department policies, with the goal of improving public transparency regarding that process.
"I know that signing secretarial orders alone won't address the urgency of the climate crisis. But I'm hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a department, have a mandate to act,” Haaland said.