Although there were very promising new appointments in the Cabinet agency everything at Department of Interior continues to be handled the same.

By Alexander Sammon, The American Prospect

The nomination of Deb Haaland as the Biden administration’s secretary of the interior, the product of tireless campaigning by progressive groups in Washington, was historic and widely celebrated. As the first Native person to ever head up the department, Haaland represented one of the biggest triumphs for progressives in the Biden Cabinet.

Department of Interior

Her track record on environmental issues, too, looked like a paradigm shift for a department that, even under Democratic administrations, has habitually acted as a clearinghouse for oil and gas leasing, with little attention paid to conservation or indigenous rights. As Data for Progress put it, Haaland “will prove a critical demonstration of the incoming Administration’s commitment to Indian Country, environmentalists, progressives and, indeed, Democratic values of diversity and representation.”

But nearly a year since Haaland’s confirmation, the few occasions the Interior Department has made news have come from its outstanding commitment to the status quo. Its highest-profile action so far has been November’s auction of oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in the Gulf’s history, justified by spurious logic. The department claimed it was compelled, hands tied, to hold the sale due to an earlier court ruling that reversed the pause on new drilling permits on public lands in the Gulf. In August, a memo filed by the Department of Justice contradicted that assertion, finding that the government was not, in fact, forced to issue new permits.

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