Interior Secretary Deb Haaland today swept away many of her Republican predecessors’ executive policies, revoking in one fell swoop myriad secretarial orders governing fossil fuel development and other hot-button issues.
With a new secretarial order of her own, Haaland also established a Climate Task Force to coordinate work across the department and to ensure that "climate change is appropriately analyzed, and that Tribes and environmental justice communities are appropriately engaged."
"From day one, President Biden was clear that we must take a whole-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, strengthen the economy, and address environmental justice," Haaland said. "These steps will align the Interior Department with the President’s priorities and better position the team to be a part of the climate solution."
Haaland also issued S.O. 3398, which revokes a series of secretarial orders issued in recent years that she said were "inconsistent with the Department’s commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science."
"I know that signing Secretarial Orders alone won’t address the urgency of the climate crisis. But I’m hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a Department, have a mandate to act," Haaland said.
The Interior Department is already conducting a climate review of oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. While this is ongoing, the Biden administration has paused new leases — a move that has provoked pushback from Republicans in Congress and across oil-dependent states.
Today’s orders don’t affect the review, the Interior Department said.
Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, applauded Haaland’s move to reverse the Trump-era fossil fuel orders promoting drilling on public lands and waters.
"With more than 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions originating on public lands and unrivaled opportunities to restore natural carbon sinks, responsibly deploy clean energy, and reduce existing emissions, the Department of the Interior has a mission-critical role in our nation’s transition to net-zero emissions," he said.
"Rescinding the previous administration’s orders that encouraged unfettered drilling in ecologically and culturally sensitive areas and establishing a Climate Task Force will help ensure wise management of our natural resources for people and wildlife alike," O’Mara added.
Many of the secretarial orders revoked by Haaland were issued in the first months of the Trump administration.
- S.O. 3348, issued March 29, 2017, by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands.The Interior Department put the moratorium in place to evaluate whether its coal leasing program was providing a fair return in royalties to taxpayers.
- S.O. 3349, also issued by Zinke on March 29, 2017, which ordered a top-to-bottom review of Interior Department policies on energy development, "in order to better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hard-working American families." It also implemented former President Trump’s "energy independence" executive order.
- S.O. 3350, titled "America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," which implemented an earlier Trump executive order of the same name. Signed by Zinke on May 1, 2017, it called for advancing "opportunities for energy exploration, leasing, and development on the Outer Continental Shelf," among other things.
- S.O. 3352, which Zinke signed on May 31, 2017. It proposed opening up the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska for energy development, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- S.O. 3354, issued July 6, 2017, instructing the Bureau of Land Management to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas development, and to conduct quarterly lease sales.
- S.O. 3385, signed by then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Sept. 14, 2020, to streamline regulatory enforcement of rules on public lands. This would be done by focusing "enforcement resources on intentional violations, prevent unfair surprise for persons reasonably relying on Department of the Interior guidance."
- S.O. 3389, which Bernhardt signed in December that sought to change the so-called Section 106 reviews done under the National Historic Preservation Act. When Bernhardt approved the change shortly before leaving office, he said his order was aimed at improving the internal management of the department.
But backers of the reviews say they are important because they force federal agencies to consider how their projects or work will affect buildings or structures included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Reporter Rob Hotakainen contributed.