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Activist Groups Influence Energy Policy in Biden Administration

Department of Interior avoids proper procedures to consult with outside activist NGOs.

by | May 5, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

A recent subcommittee hearing before the House Committee on Natural Resources heard testimony regarding alleged influence by unelected non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on important federal government policy decisions. The Biden administration was called out for permitting activist environmental groups, many funded by billionaires and the Chinese Communist Party, to inappropriately influence US energy policy at the Department of the Interior.

Committee members are investigating the degree to which Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and others are working with green activist groups to shape policies that undermine the decision-making of state and federal officials, divert oil production to less eco-friendly sources overseas, undermine US energy independence and fuel price stability, and deprive some Native American tribes of vital economic income.

Biden Leaning on Leftists

Certainly, President Joe Biden has welcomed far-left voices into every aspect of his administration, embracing transgenderism, racial “equity,” sexual orientation, and climate alarmism. His USDA has allocated resources solely on the basis of race and gender, his EPA emissions rules threaten to destroy US car manufacturing, and his SEC regulations for climate reporting depart from that agency’s traditional role in protecting investors. To this list must be added the Department of Interior, which is particularly entangled with “green new deal” ideologies.

The subcommittee summarized these concerns in its memo:

“The Biden administration is beholden to activist nonprofit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly those aligned with leftist social and environmental justice agendas … Under Secretary Haaland, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has cultivated intimate and potentially improper relationships with radical NGOs driving the Biden administration’s extreme environmental agenda.”

The memo alleged that Biden and Democrat candidates benefited from more than $320 million in “dark money” from nonprofits in 2020, including $145 million for Biden’s candidacy alone. The dramatic rise in NGO influence in recent years permits anonymous billionaires and even foreign entities to gain access to crucial administrative agencies that oversee US energy policy. The committee noted: “The Biden administration, in particular, has developed particularly close and potentially improper relationships with environment-focused activist organizations.”

Ex Parte Concerns

Monitoring such influence has become more difficult, as few administrative rules are promulgated under the formal process of the Administrative Procedure Act. Instead, most new regulations are crafted under informal “notice and comment” processes that do not prohibit ex parte communications, which are banned in formal rulemaking. “Ex parte” refers to private conversations not held in the presence of other interested parties.

The memo further stated:

“Under the Biden administration, significant questions regarding ex parte communications and potentially improper meetings between nonprofits and federal agencies — particularly within DOI — have arisen … The Committee is particularly concerned about undisclosed ex parte communications and off-the-record meetings between high-ranking DOI officials and nonprofit staff … Moreover, there is significant concern that some of these extreme activist groups have ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other foreign entities.”

The hearing focused on several high-profile withdrawals of public lands from use for resource extraction under the Biden administration, including 336,404 acres in Chaco Canyon and 225,504 acres from the Superior National Forest, and the cancellation of the Twin Metals copper-nickel-cobalt mine project in Minnesota. These projects were well underway before unilateral termination by Haaland, who has a strong association with outside environmental groups, particularly the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA).

Haaland has long been “closely involved” with the PAA and used her position as secretary of the interior to advertise the group. She engages in private meetings with PAA’s executive director to discuss opposition to oil and gas production. Her daughter, Somah Haaland, serves as the PAA’s media coordinator.

Hurting Native American Tribes

Scott Walter of the Capital Research Center observed in his committee testimony that the PAA’s influence does not benefit Native American stakeholders:

“Let there be no claims that such policy decisions as the withdrawal of leasing outside Chaco Park indicates respect for indigenous peoples. In this case as in others, a ruling sought by one tribe is strenuously opposed by another tribe. The Navajo Nation voted to reject the Secretary’s policy for the understandable reason that it expects her decision to cost the tribe hundreds of millions of dollars. The Navajos offered a compromise on this policy but were ignored by the Department, which failed to consult with a tribe that was powerfully affected by the policy. The result? According to the Standing Committee of the 25th Navajo Nation Council, their tribe members ‘will be pushed into greater poverty.’”

This outcome replicates a previous Haaland lease termination that invoked “indigenous knowledge” as scientific grounds for canceling a number of Alaskan leases that deprived tribes there of much-needed revenue without consulting the impacted tribes.

Who’s Running the Show?

Author Tyler O’Neil contributed additional testimony, asserting that Haaland’s withdrawal of lands from development compels American dependence on foreign energy and resource extraction that is more detrimental to the ecosystem than US methods, undermines the American economy, drives up energy prices, and favors wind energy despite its small contribution to the US grid. Added O’Neil: “Yet Interior is investing in wind and turning away from oil, largely for ideological reasons.”

The hearing traced the inappropriate influence of other unaccountable NGOs, including Code Pink, the Center for American Progress, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. All allegedly hold connections to foreign entities, including the Chinese Communist Party. There is concern that these groups seek to influence US energy policy toward greater reliance on Chinese-manufactured renewables while redirecting the US military to combat climate change, “effectively weakening America’s ability to defend itself against foreign threats.”

The Biden administration has done little to conceal its bold left-wing ideological agenda throughout all federal agencies. The subcommittee advocated for greater transparency and disclosure (or elimination) of private ex parte influence by unelected activist environmentalist organizations to counter this insidious, undemocratic incursion into public lands.

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