February 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) questioned Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D-N.M.), nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, on a number of environmental priorities that are essential to advancing the nation’s clean energy potential, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and preserving national parks. During his questioning in a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King highlighted the world-class offshore wind research being done by at the University of Maine, spotlighted the harmful impacts of the repeal of regulations to limit release of methane by the prior Administration, and pressed Congresswoman Haaland to ensure that the implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act matches Congress’s intent in order to protect America’s public lands.
On the University of Maine’s leadership in offshore wind development:
Senator King: “One of the issues that is of interest in Maine and New England is offshore wind. It has enormous potential, energy potential. There is an experimental project underway now in Maine called Aqua Ventus sponsored by our University of Maine, and I think one of the important areas that you can pay some attention to is the regulatory process and the timeliness. My approach has always been: we want the toughest environmental rules in the world, but we want the most timely and predictable process. So I hope that’s something you can take a look at because this is an important potential energy source. It could be a huge change for this country and we just don’t want – I’m all for protecting the environment and protecting the fisheries, protecting the impact on fisheries, but I don’t want the process itself to be a barrier to this important development.”
Congresswoman Haaland: “I understand Senator and I would look forward to working with you on any of those issues.
On the prior Administration’s dangerous repeal of methane regulations:
Senator King: “Final question is on the issue – which I think is the low-hanging fruit of climate change – which is methane. As you know, there were some serious methane capture regulations passed five or six years ago. They were essentially repealed by the prior Administration. I hope that certainly on public lands you would look to reintroducing those regulations which are not terribly costly – at least that’s my understanding – but will be enormously beneficial in terms of the elimination of greenhouse gases. As you know methane is 80 times as dangerous as CO2 so anything we can do on eliminating methane releases into the atmosphere is critically important. Will you commit to reviewing those regulations about methane release in terms of drilling on public lands?”
Congresswoman Haaland: “Yes Senator. And I completely understand and appreciate you caring about this issue. We should be breathing clean air.
On implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act:
Senator King: “Many of us on this committee supported very enthusiastically the Great American Outdoors Act which passed last year as you know. But there were some disturbing interpretations and executions of that law at the very end of the previous administration. I hope that you will review the law – I know that you supported it in the House – and ensure that the implementation is corresponding to the intent of Congress. I have a pet motto that ‘implementation and execution are as important as vision’. So I hope you’ll commit to working with us to ensure that the Great American Outdoors Act is implemented in the way that was intended by Congress to maximize the benefits to the American people.”
Congresswoman Haaland: “I absolutely would, Senator.”
Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for conservation. He first introduced the Restore Our Parks Act in July 2018 with Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mark Warner (D-Va.). The bipartisan legislation establishes the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government collects from on and offshore energy development. The legislation was included as a key provision of the Great American Outdoors Act, and in June, Senator King spoke on the floor of the Senate, urging passage of the GAOA as “a gift for our fellow Americans.” Senator King’s work on this legislation is the culmination of nearly 40 years of work on land conservation efforts in Maine, including helping to establish the Land for Maine’s Future program in 1987 and supporting extensive conservation projects during his time as Governor.
Senator King has repeatedly criticized efforts to weaken critical methane emissions regulations created during the Obama administration – in response to the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back these protection, Senator King stated: “I can’t think of a worse policy decision for the American environment and the global climate risk.” King has called for the Biden Administration to restore these regulations, and has also pushed for a comprehensive review of methane leaks from oil and gas developments and the related impact on energy prices, the environment, and public health.