Biden energy official under scrutiny for family ties to environmental lobby

(The Center Square) – Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about a Biden administration official’s questionable family ties to far-left groups lobbying lawmakers.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chair of the Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland this week demanding records, communications, documents and more related to allegations that Haaland’s family members may be unethically connected to anti-fossil fuel groups.

“Prior to joining the Biden Administration as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Secretary Haaland was evidently involved with the Pueblo Action Alliance (‘PAA’), a New Mexico based environmental and social justice organization that frequently engages in advocacy, protests, and lobbying throughout the United States,” the letter said.

The letter goes on to say that “PAA and its leaders advocate for the dismantling of America’s economic and political system and believe America is irredeemable because there is no ‘opportunity to reform a system that isn’t founded on good morals or values.’”

The left-leaning group is focused on limiting domestic oil and gas development in the U.S., and Haaland has reportedly met with that group since taking the helm of the Interior Department, the agency in charge of managing oil and gas production on federal lands.

The Department of the Interior’s press office declined to comment.

The Biden administration has taken heavy fire from energy groups for limiting leasing and discouraging pipeline development even while encouraging more production in other nations.

The letter raises questions about Haaland’s family and their ties to the leftist group.

“It is reported that Secretary Haaland’s daughter, Somah Haaland (‘Somah’), has been employed by PAA since at least 2020,” the letter said. “In 2022, Somah was involved in a PAA trip to Capitol Hill to ‘lobby members of Congress’ on legislation that would prohibit lease sales for oil and gas development on federal land. Earlier this year, Somah represented PAA at a People vs. Fossil Fuels rally and declared ‘we all need to work together to stop oil and gas developments.’”

The Republican lawmakers also point to Haaland’s husband, Skip Sayre, saying public financial disclosure reports show that he has consulted for for the Laguna Development Corporation.

“The Laguna Development Corporation is the ‘business arm’ for the Pueblo of Laguna,” the letter said. “The Pueblo of Laguna is a federally recognized tribal entity that is eligible to receive funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is a federal agency within the Department of the Interior.”

The lawmakers say this could be a conflict of interest.

Energy groups have been outspoken in their opposition to Haaland’s connections.

“Secretary Haaland’s relentless crusade against American energy producers knows no limits, and the public deserves to know about any financial connections she stood to gain from her family employment,” Daniel Turner, founder and executive director for Power The Future, said in a statement.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, argued that the same conflicts would not be tolerated if they were connections to the oil and gas industry.

“Most notably, her daughter works for the Pueblo Action Alliance, an organization whose tax exempt status with the IRS has been revoked and is listed as ‘Not in Good Standing’ with the New Mexico secretary of state’s office,” Sgamma said. “We know the secretary and her senior officials have on multiple occasions granted special access to PAA and its allies. They’ve helped PAA lobby members of Congress and the Interior Department on issues before the agency, particularly on oil and natural gas leasing. PAA went so far as to help organize a protest at Interior’s headquarters in 2021 that turned violent. An open records investigation shows Sec. Haaland’s staff collaborated with the protesters despite knowing their violent intentions.”

The Pueblo Action Alliance did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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