- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2021

It took four tries, but Rep. Deb Haaland finally acknowledged Wednesday that she supports President Biden’s hotly criticized decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Jim Risch, Idaho Republican, asked Ms. Haaland four times whether she supported the president’s Jan. 20 cancellation of the 2017 cross-border pipeline permit, and after much side-stepping, the Interior secretary nominee reluctantly replied in the affirmative.

“Do you support shutting down the Keystone pipeline?” asked Mr. Risch on his fourth attempt.

The New Mexico Democrat responded: “Senator, if I say that I support President Biden’s agenda, I assume that you could take my answer as a yes.”

She previously said that she felt “very confident” about Mr. Biden‘s decision, that he “cares deeply about our environment,” and that “if I am confirmed as secretary, it is his agenda that I would seek to move forward.”

The back-and-forth on the 1,179-mile pipeline segment came on a second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Asked why she supported shuttering the project, which would have run oil from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, Ms. Haaland said that she trusts Mr. Biden.

“One of the reasons why is that I support President Biden,” she said. “I think he’s thought deeply about these things, and I think that he cares deeply about our environment. And I do as well.”

Mr. Risch pressed her for more details, saying that “you told me that you did support his shutting down the Keystone pipeline, but I’m looking for your reasons why you think that’s a good idea.”

Not this time. 

“Senator, I’m not sure that I have the full answer for you other than to say I know that there are a lot of people in this country who care deeply about our environment,” Ms. Haaland said.

“And that is one area that folks have been passionate about,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of passion on both sides of the issue.”

Mr. Risch responded, “There sure is, particularly people who lost their jobs as a result of that.”

Despite her reluctance to answer the question, Ms. Haaland is a known foe of pipelines, having joined the 2016 Dakota Access protest in North Dakota and declared in a 2018 Netroots Nation speech, “No more pipelines!”

TC Energy, the KXL pipeline’s owner, laid off about 1,000 U.S. and Canadian workers after Mr. Biden pulled the permit.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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