A coalition of more than 100 left-leaning environmental and social justice groups are pushing President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenLawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list GOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Haaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior MORE to pick Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHaaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior Lujan Grisham turned down Interior post, says transition source Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stumps for Interior post: ‘A natural fit for me’ MORE (D-N.M.) as his Interior Secretary.
Haaland has generated significant momentum with progressives as a Green New Deal backer who would make history as the first Native American to hold the job.
But who may clinch the nomination looks very much in flux amid reports the Biden team offered the job to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamLujan Grisham turned down Interior post, says transition source Rhode Island governor reportedly a finalist to be Biden’s Health secretary Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases MORE (D), who turned it down. The team is also considering former Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor — another Native American who would provide a historic first.
“For the last two years, she has fought against the destructive acts and policies of the Trump Administration and the lawless acts of Secretary David Bernhardt,” the groups wrote in a letter referencing Haaland’s work chairing a House Natural Resources subcommittee.
“She understands the urgency to act quickly to repair the damage caused by the Trump Administration, she understands the critical need to reform the Department to ensure that these abuses never occur again, and she understands the need to swiftly implement bold policies to address the most pressing challenges our public lands and waters face — the climate emergency and the extinction crisis.”
The letter was signed by Sunrise Movement, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace, among others.
The letter gives backing to Haaland over the numerous other New Mexicans being considered for the role, who include Democratic Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHaaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stumps for Interior post: ‘A natural fit for me’ Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichHaaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior Incoming Congress looks more like America Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stumps for Interior post: ‘A natural fit for me’ MORE.
Brett Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity, which helped organize the letter, said they were eager to back Haaland, particularly given concerns over Connor.
Connor worked for the administration at the tail end of President Obama’s time in office when Interior was criticized by progressives for not being aggressive enough on species protection.
Connor now works as an attorney with WilmerHale, where he specializes in natural resources and Native American law. Though his practice primarily involves water law, his law firm offers legal services to oil and gas companies.
Hartl said Connor would need to release a list of his clients since leaving Interior at the end of the Obama administration.
“Any issues you work on you could be working for the bad guys, and most of those big firms are not representing strong environmental interests to make their bread and butter,” he said.