Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are investigating Interior Secretary Deb Haaland over the her relationship with her daughter's green group, which works to end oil and gas production as well as "imperial capitalism."
Committee chairman Bruce Westerman (R., Ark.) wrote a letter to Haaland on Monday informing her of the investigation and requesting documents pertaining to Haaland's communications with Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA), a liberal environmental group that has employed Haaland's daughter since at least 2020. In 2021, Haaland met with the group's executive director, who bragged about the meeting and referred to Haaland as "Auntie Deb." Haaland's daughter also represented the group on a December lobbying trip urging federal lawmakers to prohibit oil and gas production on federal land around a national park in New Mexico, a press release shows.
The lobbying effort quickly paid off. Haaland last week moved to block oil and gas leasing in the area for two decades, a move she said "marks an important step in fulfilling President Biden's commitments to Indian Country." Haaland's collaboration with her daughter's group, however, could land her in hot water. U.S. ethics rules forbid executive branch employees from giving "preferential treatment to any private organization or individual" and from "using their position for the private gain of family members." Per these rules, Westerman's letter states that Haaland—who is responsible for regulating energy production on federal lands—should have recused herself from the New Mexico oil and gas leasing decision.
"The House Committee on Natural Resources is concerned with Secretary Haaland's compliance with ethical obligations and potential conflicts of interest given PAA's opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands [and] Secretary Haaland's involvement with PAA," the letter reads.
While the Interior Department declined to comment, the Pueblo Action Alliance official who met with Haaland called the investigation "a misguided attempt to deflect attention from the fossil fuel industry's role in the climate crisis and the destruction of ancestral lands." But energy groups say Haaland's "conflicts of interest" require scrutiny.
"Secretary Haaland has conflicts of interest that simply wouldn't be tolerated if they were on behalf of oil and natural gas companies and should not be tolerated when they're on behalf of environmental special interests," Western Energy Alliance president Kathleen Sgamma said Monday.
Pueblo Action Alliance does not hide its contempt for the oil and gas industry. In one post on its website, the group blasts "capitalist based solutions" to fight climate change, saying those solutions "will NOT save our earth mother."
"The only way to cut carbon emissions is to keep it in the ground and end imperial capitalism," the post reads. "Indigenous people maintained balance before global colonization; we are the solutions for climate change."