Barrasso: Secretary Haaland’s Record is Disturbing and Lawless

May 2, 2024

“The American people deserve much better than what we are getting…They deserve leaders who will uphold and honor the laws enacted by Congress – not take every opportunity to subvert them.” 

Click here to watch Senator Barrasso’s opening remarks.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the President’s budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fiscal Year 2025.

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior.

For more information on Secretary Haaland’s testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Well thanks so much, Mr. Chairman.

“I agree with so much of what you just said there in your remarks about the secretary and her appearance today and the unresponsiveness and illegality of the actions of this Department. And really abusing the way the department ought to be following the law because they are not.

“So thanks so much for your strong statement Mr. Chairman. I thank you for holding today’s hearing and to have the secretary here because the Department of the Interior has a profound impact on the people of my home state of Wyoming.

“And that is because almost half of the land in Wyoming is owned by the federal government.

“Nearly 70 percent of the minerals under that land is owned by the federal government.

“And the Secretary’s decisions affect people’s livelihoods, affect people’s family budgets, and even the quality of public education in our state.

“And that’s why I find Secretary Haaland’s record so troubling.

“Yesterday, just yesterday, during a Congressional hearing in the House of Representatives, Wyoming Representative Harriet Hageman, asked the Secretary if she had ‘heard of the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan.’

“The Secretary testified ‘no.’

“Well, the people of Wyoming know what it is.

“It is the Department’s disastrous proposal to block access to 3.7 million acres of public lands in southwest Wyoming.

“It would severely restrict energy and mineral development, restrict grazing, and restrict recreation activities on those lands.

“It would affect nearly a quarter of the state’s population.

“These lands are the economic lifeblood of local communities.

“They supply jobs, they provide tax dollars, they keep hospitals open, they fund our public schools.

“Thousands of people in Wyoming have written to the Department opposing this fiasco.

“The Secretary testified yesterday that she never heard of it.

“The Governor, the state legislature, county commissioners, local communities all strongly oppose this plan coming out of this Department of the Interior.

“And it’s deeply troubling that Secretary Haaland, as of yesterday, was not even aware of one of her Department’s major actions affecting my state.

“What’s even more disturbing is how many of Secretary Haaland’s decisions are lawless.

“Take, for example, her refusal to follow the Mineral Leasing Act.

“The Act requires the Secretary to hold quarterly lease sales in each state with oil and gas resources.

“That’s one lease sale – in each state with oil and gas – every three months.

“Yet during the first 10 quarters of Secretary Haaland’s tenure, she held only 2 lease sales.

“Since then, the Department has had 3 more.

“But the Secretary has made no effort whatsoever to reinstate the 8 missing lease sales.

“We are now starting to see the damage in store for us.

“So from fiscal years 2001 through 2021 – the Department leased, on average, over 2.3 million acres each year.

“2022 – 2023,  under Secretary Haaland, the Department leased, on average 83 thousand acres per year.

“From 2.3 million to 83 thousand, that’s a 96 percent drop in the amount of acreage leased.

“Likewise, in fiscal years 2001 through 2021, the Department issued, on average, nearly 2,000 leases a year.

“The last two years, the Department [issued]132 leases each year.

“Again, a 93 percent drop in the number of leases issued.

“Let’s just compare President Biden to President Obama, there has been a 93 percent drop in the amount of acreage leased; 90 percent drop in the number of leases issued between Obama and Biden, Obama and Biden.

“This is a horrible record Mr. Chairman, undermining the economy of the United States.

“What does it all mean?

“Well first, it means that today’s oil and gas production has nothing to do with President Biden.

“It means that oil and gas production on federal lands, that’s happening today, has nothing to do with Biden. It is headed for a fall.

“It means that if Secretary Haaland’s decisions are allowed to stand, the people of the West are going to suffer in the years to come.

“The Secretary’s lawless actions are not just limited to her failure to follow the Mineral Leasing Act.

“She has also failed to follow a host of other laws.

“Last month was a good example.

“Within the span of two days, Secretary Haaland issued three decisions that made a mockery of Congress and the law.

“First, the Secretary issued the so-called Public Lands Rule.

“This rule turns the multiple use mandate – which has been a decades-old, bedrock principle of federal land management– turned it on its head.

“It equates the non-use of land with the productive use of the land.

“It will allow activists to stop grazing, to stop energy and mineral production, to stop timber harvesting, and to stop recreation on the very lands where Congress directed these activities to take place.

“One day later, the Secretary prohibited oil and natural gas production in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

“This is an area that Congress has established with the express purpose of producing oil.

“It’s why it is called the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska – right there in the name!

“This area is central to our nation’s long-term energy security.

“And the Secretary is locking up half of it.

“Then, the Secretary announced plans to block access to the Ambler Mining District.

“This is a large mineral deposit on the state and native lands in Alaska.

“It is a rich source of copper as you talked about Mr. Chairman, cobalt, zinc, and other minerals.

“Federal law guarantees access to these lands.

“Yet this Secretary is doing what she wants in spite of the law.

“She is doing what she wants in spite of the fact that President Biden is driving up demand for these very same minerals.

“Mr. Chairman – the American people deserve much better than what we are getting from this Secretary from this administration.

“They deserve leaders who will uphold and honor the laws enacted by Congress – not take every opportunity to subvert them.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”