Group files ethics complaint against Interior Secretary Haaland for Chaco moratorium

Group files ethics complaint against Interior Secretary Haaland for Chaco moratorium

  • August 21, 2023

Mike Easterling, Farmington (NM) Daily Times

A June decision by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to withdraw federal lands around Chaco Culture National Historic Park from future mining and drilling leases continues to make waves, with a Washington, D.C.-based organization filing an ethics complaint against her last week.

Officials from Protect the Public’s Trust, an organization that bills itself as a nonpartisan government watchdog group, have urged the Department of the Interior’s inspector general to investigate the former New Mexico congresswoman for her participation in a film opposing oil and gas leasing in the Chaco region and for her public statements. The film, “Our Story: The Indigenous Led Fight to Protect Greater Chaco,” was narrated by Haaland’s child, Somah Haaland.

Haaland’s decision to institute a buffer zone that prohibits new oil and gas leasing, and mining claims within 10 miles of Chaco for 20 years was hailed by many conservationists and Native American group, but a variety of energy-related organizations and other Native American groups voiced their opposition to it. The ethics complaint by Protect the Public’s Trust is only the latest chapter in that battle.

“The American public serves the assurance that official decision at the Department of the Interior and other agencies are made in an impartial manner,” Michael Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust, stated in a news release about the filing of the complaint. “Despite her unequivocal public statements as a federal official, her child’s leadership position at the loudest advocacy group calling for a moratorium, and even her ‘participation’ in a documentary arguing for such a policy, as Secretary, Deb Haaland pushed forward in the apparent misconception that people would believe she could be ‘impartial’ in the matter.”

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