Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, April 23, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, April 23, 2021

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Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  April 23  •  11:43 A.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Friday. We have another very exciting guest today: our new Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, who made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet Secretary. She is the member — she is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th-generation New Mexican.

    Secretary Haaland has worn many hats throughout her career. She ran a small business; served as a Tribal Administrator; and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing the business operations of the second-largest Tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico.

    She also became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a state party. In 2018, she became one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. In Congress, she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and family-friendly policies.

    She joins us today, on the second day of the Climate Summit, to underscore our commitment to protecting public lands and strengthening Tribal sovereignty.

    She's happy to take just a couple of questions because she has a hard out. And I will, as always, be the bad cop. And please welcome — thank you again for joining us.

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Thank you. Thank you so much, Jen.

    Good morning, everyone.

    Q:  Good morning.

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you, Jen, for inviting me to be here today. I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy National Park Week. I hope you found a chance to get out and experience your public lands this week. The White House is actually a national park, so technically, we're all celebrating a bit right now.

    I had always wanted to be a National Park Ranger. And while I didn't quite land that job yet, I'm pretty excited that, tomorrow night, I get the chance to swear in some Junior Rangers. All of your kids are welcome to join during the U.S. Army Field Band's virtual concert tomorrow night. I think you can find the link on our website.

    I was happy, also, to celebrate this morning with the Second Gentleman; we announced 16 new listings to the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. Our park system is our nation's storyteller, and I'm eager to ensure that these national treasures help tell a more inclusive and accurate story of our nation.

    This week has brought significant news on climate action and on issues impacting Tribal communities. And so, I'm honored and grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you and take your questions today.

    We have no shortage of work ahead: President Biden has set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis while empowering our nation's workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution.

    I believe that a clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States, but it will take all of us and the best available science to make it happen. The Interior Department is in a unique position to be a leader in putting our nation on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, create good-paying jobs, and benefit underserved communities.

    We have taken steps in just the past few weeks to advance offshore wind proposals, restore balance to management of our public lands and waters, and create jobs, and revitalize land in coal communities.

    I'll also touch on Interior's work to honor our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Tribes and uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities.

    I believe, just as President Biden does, that we must engage Tribal nations with an all-of-government approach, and one need look no further than the First Lady's visit to the Navajo Nation to speak and hear from Tribal leaders and Indigenous People.

    For too long, Indian issues were relegated to the Tribal offices within federal agencies. If we're going to make sure that Native American and Alaska Native communities thrive, that Tribal sovereignty is respected and strengthened. And if we are truly to repair our nation-to-nation relationships, then that means every federal agency needs to be thinking boldly about our obligations to Indigenous Peoples.

    The significance of being the first Native American to serve in the Cabinet is not lost on me. As I stand here today at this podium, I am moved by how monumental this week alone has been for Indigenous representation.

    On Monday, I delivered remarks on behalf of the U.S. government at the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where I affirmed our commitment to advancing Indigenous Peoples' rights at home and abroad. I talked about how we're putting the full weight of our federal government behind a cross-departmental Missing and Murdered Unit to address the crisis in Indian Country.

    Yesterday, I announced that Interior is moving forward to implement the Not Invisible Act, establishing a joint commission led by Interior and the Department of Justice on reducing violent crime against Indigenous Peoples.

    And later today, Domestic Policy Advisor, Ambassador Susan Rice, and I will convene the first White House Council on Native American Affairs meeting of the Biden-Harris Administration.

    We're wasting no time. We have an ambitious agenda. And so, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work across the Cabinet in identifying and supporting Tribal equities in the administration's core policy pillars.

    Last, I come from a family that farms, ranches, and hunts. I've grown up in rural and agricultural communities, and I know what it's like to live in a community that's been left behind. These experiences underscore while I believe — why I believe so deeply in the work that we do at the Interior Department and why I know that we can and will make a difference in the everyday lives of families across this country.

    And with that, I'm happy to try and answer your questions.

    MS. PSAKI: Nancy, go ahead.

    Q:  Thank you, Secretary Haaland. Can you give us an update on the moratorium on fracking on federal lands — new contracts?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Thank you so much. So the pause on new leases is still in effect until we finish a review that is due to the President. That means that the existing leases are still in effect. We are still issuing permits on those lands. And when we finish the review — it's an important review — we're talking to many people; we've had a for- — a gas and oil forum; we've talked to many folks across the country.

    When that review is done, then us and the President will decide next steps.

    Q:  And can you give us a little bit more details on how that review works, what exactly you're doing, and when you think it'll be concluded?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: So, I can't say exactly when it will be concluded, but, as I mentioned, we've had a gas and oil forum, already. That was virtual. The Department folks are talking to governors, to legislators, to folks on the ground. We're talking to -

    It's mostly, like, getting everyone's input. We want to make sure that every voice has a seat at the table, and it's really that, as well as using the science. And that's how we'll do the review. And it'll go to the President.

    MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

    Q:  We've heard from Republicans in Utah talk about their preference for legislation to expand the size of Bears Ears instead of executive action. Do you think there's room for bipartisan work there, or are we probably looking at executive action from this administration?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Well, I met with those legislators when I was in Utah — the governor, the lieutenant governor, my former colleagues from the House. Legislators legislate, and I think they should move ahead with legislation if that's what they want to do.

    We will get the report done for the President and send it to the White House. And it will really be the President's decision. The Antiquities Act is a presidential — you know it's — it's all him; he can decide.

    What I did when I went to Utah was make sure that, again, every voice was at the table. We talked to ranchers and farmers; we talked to children who use those lands, and outdoor — you know, economy folks. And so, we're — we want to make sure that we include every voice, and that's the report that will go to the President, and he'll decide.

    Q:  Can I ask on a different topic of really fast?

    MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

    Q:  We've heard so many Tribes this year talk about, "We're really struggling with mental health issues for teens..." — I mean, a lot of teens around the country, but just teens struggling with depression during this pandemic. Is that one — an issue that you guys are going be addressing in this Domestic Council?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: I can't — this is our first meeting, so what we're really going to do, initially, is assign committees to each Cabinet Secretary, and it will be up to them to look at the topics.

    Of course, we care deeply about this issue. It's one that I know a lot of people are suffering from, so I appreciate you mentioning that. And once we're able to get a — you know, a clear path on where we're going with the Council, we'll certainly let everyone know.

    MS. PSAKI: Mario, you've got to be the last one, but we'll — we'll invite her back.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. Thank you, Madam Secretary.

    Just piggybacking — a couple questions just piggybacking off of your comments at the top about national parks. Any reason why they're still at reduced capacity when we know that social distancing outside is a best possible case for COVID?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Well, let's — first of all, I'll say, we are taking every possible precaution to make sure that we are keeping people safe. I don't ever want to jump the gun on this. We know there's a lot of vaccinations that are happening. Yes, our country is safer since President Biden has been in office; we're just not quite there yet.

    They'll continually monitor that situation. We want everyone to keep their masks on, to social distance, and — and I appreciate the question. We can look into it, and absolutely get back with you.

    Q:  And more business related: What's your plan for restarting the sale of oil and gas leases in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico?

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Once we are — once we — so, existing leases are already happening. As I mentioned earlier, there's not a moratorium on — even on new leases; they're just a pause. So, when we — when we have the review done — what I'll say is, right now, permits are still being issued, so — and there's still ongoing leases that are happening.

    MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Secretary Haaland.


    MS. PSAKI: Thank you for joining us, and you're welcome back anytime.


    Q:  Thank you.

    SECRETARY HAALAND: Nice to see you all. Happy National Park Week. (Laughter.)

    MS. PSAKI: National Park Week — a good thing to celebrate.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.

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