Haaland Unilaterally Waived Ethics Concerns Over Chaco Canyon Decision

Haaland Unilaterally Waived Ethics Concerns Over Chaco Canyon Decision

  • February 26, 2024

Tristan Justice, The Federalist

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland unilaterally dismissed ethics concerns over her decision on an oil and gas moratorium in New Mexico.

In August, Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a non-profit government watchdog, filed a complaint related to Haaland’s order to choke off hundreds of thousands of acres in New Mexico from energy outcome.

“In June 2, 2023, Secretary Haaland withdrew public lands from future fuel leases within the Greater Chaco area,” the complaint read. “Somah Haaland, Secretary Haaland’s child, is a prominent member of an activist organization that lobbied federal officials seeking to restrict oil and gas leasing in the area.”

Documents obtained by PPT through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal the secretary’s recommendations from the agency’s ethics department. Officials suggested Haaland leverage the agency’s “catch-all provision” of federal ethics rules. As long as Haaland examined the conflicting circumstances of her involvement in Chaco drilling decisions, the secretary could determine whether she believed a reasonable person would doubt her impartiality.

“If Secretary Haaland really is satisfied that she could be impartial in the Chaco Canyon decision, she’s in the minority,” Michael Chamberlain, the director of PPT, told The Federalist. “Look at it from every angle — her previous statements, her daughter’s activism, her participation in a film advocating for the decision she eventually took, etc. — people would be more likely to believe one reason she took the job as Secretary was so she could take the land around Chaco off the table for oil and gas development than that she could be impartial on the decision.”

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