Downing: The revenge of Deb Haaland

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1973

By SUZANNE DOWNING

Revenge, the saying goes, is a dish best served cold. But when it comes to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, vengeance on Alaskans is icy.

When Haaland was pressured to approve the ConocoPhillips Willow Project, a modest oil field in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, she did so against her will. 

Haaland choked up while speaking with a room of Alaska Natives from the radical side of the spectrum who oppose the drilling permit, as she explained her agency had “difficult choices to make,” according to those present at the meeting.

The choice, it seems, had been taken out of her hands and was made by election strategists in the Oval Office, because Haaland could not be trusted to take the correct political action. The White House is especially sensitive to the election cycle ahead and propping up Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, who is somewhat of an electorally endangered politician in this still-red state. 

Haaland, however, is sympathetic to a village of Alaska Natives who oppose the NPR-A project, while nearly all other Alaskans of all stripes support responsible oil development.

President Joe Biden stated during his 2020 campaign that he would put an end to oil. Then-Rep. Haaland was in agreement with that, so long as future curbs on hydrocarbons do not impact her home state of New Mexico’s relatively new position as the No. 2 producer of oil in America, after Texas. 

While she has remade the Interior Department into a parks-and-rec agency, New Mexico has a carve out. It now produces 1.7 million barrels per day of oil, and in 2021 produced 2,237 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Haaland’s actions show she prefers Alaska oil remains locked down. With her hand forced on Willow, Haaland announced her agency would not only reduce the scope of the project by 40 percent, it would take another 16 million acres of Alaska off the table for any future development. Haaland is taking the equivalent of West Virginia.

The day after the Willow decision and simultaneous land grab was formally announced, Haaland exacted further revenge: She took back land the Interior Department had traded with a tiny Native corporation in Alaska in 2019.

King Cove, population about 875, has an economy tied to year-round commercial fishing. It’s a stormy corner on the edge of the world and while the cove provides protection from the wild Bering Sea, it is shrouded with low-hanging fog much of the time. Small planes cannot get in or out, and if a worker is injured or a mother is in labor, the people must hope for the best and take a boat to Cold Bay, where there is an all-weather, FAA-managed airport and where medical evacuation to Anchorage is much more likely. In the winter, King Cove’s waters are covered with foot-deep ice, and so not just any boat will do.

King Cove, Alaska

King Cove Corp., the Native village, has been trying to build that short gravel road to Cold Bay for decades, but the Izembek Wildlife Refuge sits between the communities, and the federal government allows no overland access between the towns.

The matter bounced around the courts for years, with environmentalists using the same “existential threat to humanity” messaging they recently played on Willow.

Finally, former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt agreed to a land swap with the village corporation to allow the one-lane gravel road. That was during the Trump Administration, but even the Biden Administration joined with King Cove Corp., the Agdaagux Tribe of King Cove, the Native Village of Belkofski and the State of Alaskato defend it after environmental groups sued, as they do.

A year ago, a federal appeals court reversed a district court decision that rejected the land swap. Things were looking up for the people of King Cove, at long last. 

Now, however, Haaland is in a dark mood. She lost face among Nuiqsut village leaders when she was forced to announce the Willow record of decision, and she was out for blood. She took her revenge on the people of King Cove, about half of which are Alaska Natives, by unilaterally taking back the land the department had already traded. The cover story is that it needs to be studied more. This is the equivalent of a kill shot; she has put the land swap in a place where it simply cannot be extracted — the bureaucracy.

Haaland’s actions are inconsistent with her stated support for the Natives of Alaska. She denied a life-saving road for the purpose of face saving, virtue signaling, and score settling in a corner of the world that the Biden Administration continues to treat as a colony. 

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Just build the road, and tell the feds to suck it!
    Realistically, what is anyone is this wildly dysfunctional, woke-obsessed administration going to do about it?
    The time has come to challenge the tyrannical and illegitimate federal government with action.

    • That’s what I keep saying and some say we can’t. I am with you Jefferson develop what we need and screw the feds.

    • My sympathies – unfortunately, what they can do about it is sue you to remove what road got built, and ultimately force its removal at your expense plus legal fees… Only good answer is to declare Alaska’s independence and wait for World War III which would result when China gets wind of it.

      • So let the damned fed try it!
        .
        Face it, Rich, we are dealing with not only an evil empire on the Potomac, but a largely toothless one. All it would take is for a very small number of states, or local governments, or individuals, to stand up to them directly to demonstrate that they are mostly just full of bluster and self-righteous impotence.

      • So let them sue they have very little infrastructure here so we could start by shutting off all fossil fuels as the feds want to go green. Their bulldozers don’t run on electricity. Like Jefferson was pointing to things are coming to a head and other than the DOJ they have little to threaten us with. Someone needs to stand up to the feds and tell him enough is enough.

  2. I disagree with the premise this is a red state. Our voting and our representation say otherwise.

  3. When the state “voted” ranked choice voting in we lost many things, besides our primary process. I wish we had a more informed population.

  4. Interesting question to ask the native population who oppose this, particularly those who live closest to the project:
    Do you receive a dividend from the oil companies? Or are you excluded from this due to your village’s charter? Perhaps this should make it to the main stream media as I think the results of answering these two questions may clarify the motives of the detractors.

  5. 792 people live at King Cove, a windy inhospitable village of misery, a poverty stricken mistake, pilots hate the airstrip and costs the state more per capita than any other village.
    They should all move over a few miles away to well established Cold Bay.

  6. She is a communist. Hatred boils just below the surface in all communists. Sometimes it boils over, which typically generates regrettable circumstances for all of those that they have any sort of power over.

  7. So her own state is producing approximately 3 1/2 times as much oil as Alaska does, and she is red hot to even further shut us down, by removing 16 million acres from future oil production.

    Never ever let mealy mouthed Dan and Lisa forget that they voted to approve this Communist, in spite of their constituents warning them that things exactly like this were going to happen if she got the necessary votes of approval.

  8. > she has put the land swap in a place where it simply cannot be extracted — the bureaucracy.

    Unwinding their tendrils is among our highest priorities. They are nothing but a dead hand in all our lives.

  9. Never EVER forget – RINO Sullivan voted for this neo-malthusian.
    RINO’s are the real problem at the end of the day – AND their supporters.
    Wake up Neo-Cons while we still have a country.

    • Neo-malthusian ! Great handle there DoneWithIt!

      Despite all of the noise surrounding Secretary Haalands politics of personal identity appointment which served to confound Senator Sullivan I remained cautious. You see , Secretary Debe is fully one half Norwegian! Apparently that evil Viking side of her mind took the helm of her Long Boat as she proceeded to rape , murder and plunder a peaceful King Cove village with this atrocious decision.

      Senator Lisa is beyond redemption so it’s pointless to blame her for this Haaland debacle, but Senator Dan? What the hell was Dan thinking ??

  10. Hmm…benefits versus detrimental results.

    Benefits. Access unto lifesaving transportation.

    Detrimental. Umm, really? How can a gravel road a few miles long constitute an environmental emergency within such a widespread area?

    It is not a matter of benefit versus detrimental results.

    It is simply a matter of control, of which variables have no concern within.

    Haaland is simply being a female dog and taking it out on those that she can control.

  11. King Cove is on the Pacific side of the Aleutians, not the Bering side, it’s beautifully rugged country out there.

  12. As usual, it is the little guy, in this case the people of King Cove, who lose. DC is so corrupt it is beyond saving. Dan and Lisa, you should be ashamed of yourselves for voting for this person.

    • Those two have no soul, they will never admit how wrong they are, let alone how wrong they were to vote her in. They hate us, we all have to admit it and ensure we treat them accordingly. Your vote really does matter, dont waste it on any democrat EVER. They march in lickstep like the chinese army.

  13. So, wildlife refuge means wildlife (no gravel road), but petroleum reserve does not mean petroleum?? What part of National Petroleum Reserve don’t they understand?

    • This administration, and their greenies want to turn alaska, and america, into a big park. Only green solutions allowed, they will destroy our infrastructure and us. We must fight and somehow get lisa dan and mary off their A**es, anyone got an extra soul lying around?

  14. A bridge is what is needed. Or maybe a bridge-tunnel like there are so many of in the lower 48. It’s not about money in this administration.

  15. There is no autonomy or independent thought in the Democrat ranks. They have all been bought and paid for. They speak and vote as directed.

  16. There have been a few commenters who claim Haaland’s Interior has been approving oil, natural gas, mining and infrastructure permits in NM. Anyone who has additional information on this please get in contact with me. Cheers –

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