- Interior Secretary Deb Haaland failed seven times to answer questions from Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho about her knowledge of a major wind project in the state, in a Senate Energy Committee Meeting Tuesday.
- At one point, the secretary said that she did not have a “complete readout” of what the department knew, prompting the frustrated senator to interrupt her demanding that she “[g]imme an incomplete readout!”
- The Lava Ridge project has been fiercely opposed by a myriad of interests, ranging from local governments, ranchers and advocates for the Minidoka National Historic Site, which commemorates the thousands of Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps in the U.S. during World War 2, according to The Associated Press.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland repeatedly failed to answer questions from Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho about a major wind project in the state, despite having previously promised Idaho lawmakers that she would learn more about the project, in a Senate Energy Committee hearing Tuesday.
“I’m gonna focus on one thing today, one thing and one thing only and that is the Lava Ridge wind turbine project in Idaho, have you heard of it?” asked Risch. “OK, you’ve heard of it because Congressman [Mike] Simpson, Congressman [Russ] Fulcher twice this year have raised it with you in hearings, is that right?
“Yes, I believe so,” said Haaland.
“They told me that at that time that you didn’t know anything about it, but that you were gonna look into it, is that a fair statement?” Risch asked, drawing another affirmative response from the secretary. “OK, so what’ve you found out?” he continued.
“The [Bureau of Land Management] has been engaged with stakeholders including the state, local, counties, grazing permittees, tribes and other federal agencies early on in the process. It’s coordinated with the Idaho Resource Advisory Council and the Lava Ridge Wind Project [Subcommittee] and the BLM has also coordinated with the [Interior Department’s] collaborative action and dispute resolution staff to engage stakeholders with ties to the Minidoka Historical Site.”
“That’s great!” the GOP senator responded. “What did you find out? With all this coordination and discussion and meetings.”
Haaland said that her department was continuing to engage with stakeholders before she was interrupted by Risch to again ask “[w]hat did you find out?” In total, Risch asked Haaland what she had learned about the project seven times, with Haaland failing to provide a direct response each time.
At one point, the secretary said that she did not have a “complete readout” of what the department knew, prompting the frustrated senator to interrupt her demanding that she “[g]imme an incomplete readout!” The line of questioning ended after nearly two minutes of back-and-forth, with Haaland saying she would “happy to update [Risch] as time goes on.”
The Lava Ridge project would be the second-largest wind farm in the U.S., producing roughly 1,000 megawatts and roughly doubling the total wind power produced in Idaho, according to The Associated Press.
The project has been fiercely opposed by a myriad of interests including local governments, ranchers and advocates for the Minidoka National Historic Site, which commemorates the more than 120,000 Japanese Americans forced into internment camps in the United States during World War 2, the AP reported. The Minidoka internment camp held more than 9,000 Japanese Americans over the course of the war.
An April 13 protest against the project drew hundreds of attendants, with protesters expressing frustration at topics ranging from the use of historic land, impacts on ranching, ecological impacts and the Bureau of Land Management’s alleged failure to properly engage with Spanish-speaking minorities, according to the AP. Janet Matsuoka Keegan — a board member of advocacy group Friends of Minidoka — had several family members who were imprisoned at the site’s internment camp, and told local news outlet KTVB that the project would “destroy that site” and “harm the experience” at Minidoka.
Risch later asked Haaland if she knew what the Minidoka National Historic Site is, and she first replied that she had never visited the site, before she was pressed to answer a second time by the senator.
“It’s an historical site,” said Haaland.
“Well, I mean, let me tell you what it’s a historical site for,” Risch said, throwing his hands up and laughing. “It was one of the detention sites during World War 2 for Japanese people, of which we have a significant population in Idaho. This land means a lot to them.”
Prior to Risch’s questioning, Haaland was also unable to identify the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the world’s leading cobalt producer when asked by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Pennsylvania, who expressed concern that the Interior Department was not taking sufficient action to support mining of the mineral, which is critical to electric vehicle batteries. In a March hearing, Haaland was unwilling to say whether she preferred the U.S. produce its own oil and gas, instead of importing from foreign countries like Venezuela and Russia.
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