Secretary Haaland Delivers Remarks at Interior’s Public Forum on the Federal Oil and Gas Program

Last edited 03/25/2021

Date: Thursday, March 25, 2021 

WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland delivered opening remarks at today’s virtual public forum on the federal oil and gas program. The public forum is part of Interior’s comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program as called for in Executive Order 14008 and features several panels to highlight perspectives from invited participants including industry representatives, labor and environmental justice organizations, natural resource advocates, Indigenous organizations, and other experts.    

Secretary Haaland emphasized the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our nation’s economy, and outlined Interior’s commitment to robust engagement with external stakeholders, including Tribes, governors, and Members of Congress.

Information gathered at the forum will help inform an interim report from the Department that will be completed in early summer. Members of the public can submit additional information through April 15 to inform Interior’s interim report at

You can review the agenda for the forum. A livestream of the event is available at The forum is being recorded and will be available following the event.

Below please find her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, everyone.   

Thank you for joining this public forum.

I know people are tuning in from all over the country, which speaks to the importance of this issue.

We recognize that oil, gas, and coal energy, from our public lands and ocean has helped to build our economy and power our nation. Likewise, we, as a nation recognize the workers who have made sacrifices to ensure our country is powered.

Fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in America for years to come, but too often, the extraction of resources has been rushed to meet the false urgency of political timetables, rather than with careful consideration of the impacts to the environment and future generations of Americans.

During the past four years, the Trump Administration offered vast swaths of our public lands and waters for drilling, prioritizing fossil fuel development above all other uses on public lands and waters.

The potential impacts to people, water, wildlife, and climate were deliberately ignored – something the courts continue to address.

While some corporations profited, taxpayers were shortchanged, and voices of many Americans went unheard.

An ‘act now, think later,’ approach to managing our public lands and waters hasn’t worked well:

  • not for the communities who live with legacies of pollution;
  • not for coal and oil workers whose jobs and benefits are being cut;
  • not for the local, state, and Tribal governments who struggle to pay teachers and firefighters when the market drops;
  • not for the Tribal Nations who are consulted too little and too late on projects that have lasting impacts;
  • and certainly not for the sustainability of our country and our planet.

In order to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our nation’s economy, we must manage our lands, waters, and resources not just across fiscal years, but across generations.  

Now is the time for all of us to have a frank conversation about the future of our shared resources. 

I will not pretend that this moment of reflection will be easy, or that we have all the right answers. But I can promise you that I will listen, and I will be honest and transparent. 

The pause in new oil and gas lease sales gives us space to look at the federal fossil fuel programs that haven’t been meaningfully examined or modernized in decades.  

I want to be clear that the pause on these lease sales does not impact permitting and development on valid existing leases.

Further, oil and gas companies have amassed thousands of permits to drill on 38 million acres of public lands and oceans - an area larger than the state of Iowa. 

Today, and over the coming days, we look forward to hearing from all of you about a shared path forward.

We will explore ideas from leaders of both parties to rethink how we manage energy and minerals on our public lands.

We will also continue to meet with Governors on both sides of the aisle, hear from Congress, and engage in consultation with Tribal Nations. 

President Biden’s agenda demonstrates that America’s public lands and oceans can and should be engines for local economies.

It’s exciting that energy companies are innovating to tackle climate change and stay globally competitive.

We know how to create good-paying union jobs through clean energy production.

We can put people to work to restore our lands and waters through a Civilian Climate Corps.

And we can work to ensure that communities have the right tools and resources to support families that have been hurt by the oil and coal busts. 

My ancestors made subtle but constant changes - century after century - to how they farmed and cared for the land, because they knew it was their obligation to leave a sustainable planet to me and to us.

We, too, must take a longer view. Right now – more than ever - we need hopeful, practical, and honest thinking about our public lands and waters that belong to every American.

I look forward to working with you – and federal, state, local, and Tribal leaders - to bring a measure of common purpose to how we manage America’s public lands and waters, and the oil, gas, and minerals they hold.  


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