Manchin Questions Haaland About Interior’s Leasing Plans and Failure to Meet Deadlines

May 2, 2023

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the President’s budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for fiscal year 2024. During the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, raised concerns about the Department’s failure to meet statutory deadlines from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the administration’s efforts to limit oil and gas leasing, including the continued delay in Interior finalizing the next 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing program and Interior’s refusal to commit to including lease sales in the program. Chairman Manchin also raised the need for comprehensive energy permitting reform and the Compacts of Free Association with Secretary Deb Haaland. 

Chairman Manchin noted that. “[B]ecause the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] ties wind leasing to oil and gas, failing to take an all-of-the-above approach to energy security puts the Administration at risk of taking a “none-of-the-above” approach,” before seeking  confirmation from Secretary Haaland about the agency’s common understanding of and commitment to comply with provisions in the IRA that require offshore oil and gas lease sales to take place and be issued prior to leases being awarded for offshore wind.

“Do you agree, Madam Secretary, that under the IRA the Department cannot move forward with offshore wind without basically holding offshore oil and gas lease sales. You understand they’re tied?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“Yes Chairman, of course we’re going to comply with the IRA as written. We understand that it’s tied to oil and gas development and renewable development, both offshore and onshore. We’ll do what it [IRA] requires,” said Secretary Haaland.

Chairman Manchin continued, “You know I’m having just a little bit of a problem with the way they’re interpreting this legislation. I’m not blaming you all, it sounds handed down. But the law is the law and we’re going to make sure we enforce the law.” 

“We will follow the law,” replied Secretary Haaland.

Chairman Manchin also asked Secretary Haaland about progress on the Compacts of Free Association. These compacts are a crucial component to outcompeting China and strengthening our alliances in the Indo-Pacific. These compacts must be renewed and are set to expire on September 30 of this year from the Marshall Islands and Micronesia and next year for Palau. The President’s budget request includes $7.1 billion in mandatory funding over the next 20 years for the Compacts with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau, which includes $6.5 billion in economic assistance and $634 million for continued U.S. Postal Service. 

“I will just say that we have a really experienced team that has been working on this. Ambassador Yun and Assistant Secretary Cantor, she was the ambassador in that area prior to coming to the Department of the Interior. I trust them to do the best job possible and think they’re really moving forward in a good way,” said Secretary Haaland. 

Chairman Manchin also lamented the failure of the Department to meet statutory deadlines while requesting increased funding for new, administration-developed priorities.

“While we are being asked to fund new initiatives, we are still waiting on Interior to comply with requirements in existing law. With agency leadership lamenting the lack of staff and agencies missing statutory deadlines, you would think that the Department would be putting its resources towards meeting existing statutory requirements and deadlines. For example, two different requirements of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are now 6 months overdue – one to improve permitting of critical minerals and the other to implement carbon sequestration on the Outer Continental Shelf. Instead, the Department is prioritizing new administration-developed initiatives. In my view, Interior’s failures to comply with laws Congress has passed is not a question of funding — it is a question of misplaced priorities or perhaps a willingness to ignore certain requirements.

“Madam Secretary, I raised this issue with you at last year’s budget hearing. Then in December we talked about it with Mr. Beaudreau in our committee’s infrastructure implementation hearing, after additional deadlines were missed. So, I’m disappointed that here we are again today, having the same conversation again, and I am eager to hear from you about how you justify this 12 percent increase when the Department hasn’t completed the tasks at hand but for which funding was provided,” said Chairman Manchin.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.