The Biden administration handed out a major promotion to a Department of the Interior (DOI) official whose nomination for a lower position at the agency floundered after she pushed climate policies.
The DOI announced that Laura Daniel-Davis — the current principal deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals management — will serve as the acting deputy secretary, the agency’s second-most senior role, effective immediately. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., tanked Daniel-Davis’ nomination for deputy assistant secretary in March after it was revealed she had explicitly prioritized the climate agenda over energy security.
“The work of the Department of the Interior touches all Americans, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Acting Deputy Secretary,” Daniel-Davis said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to work in partnership with states, Tribes, industry, non-profit organizations and academia to ensure that the best available science guides our decision-making as we deliver on our promises to the American people.”
“Laura has a depth of experience that will be invaluable in our work to build a clean energy future, honor our commitments to Indigenous communities, and leave our air, water and public lands better for future generations,” added Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who said there are “few people who have been by my side more over the past two and a half years” than Daniel-Davis.
Daniel-Davis, who was named principal deputy assistant secretary in January 2021, previously served in a leadership position for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a group that has advocated for far-left climate policies. She also served at the DOI under both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and advised on energy policy for former Democratic Colorado Rep. Mark Udall.
She will replace outgoing Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau who was confirmed to the position in a bipartisan Senate vote in June 2021. Beaudreau oversaw a wide range of key DOI initiatives during his tenure and was instrumental in green-lighting a massive oil drilling project in Alaska.
President Biden first nominated Daniel-Davis for the position in June 2021. Since then, she has appeared in two confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but has failed two votes for her nomination to be passed to a floor vote as Republicans on the panel have consistently opposed her and expressed concern about her views on energy issues.
“Laura Daniel-Davis is doing everything in her power to make American energy more expensive. During her tenure as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals, she has undermined our nation’s energy and mineral security. She has continually blocked access to important minerals and restricted oil and gas leasing on federal lands. She is totally opposed to unleashing American energy,” Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
“This extreme agenda is the reason that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee twice refused to confirm her nomination. Promoting her to an even more influential position only shows the Biden Administration’s blind devotion to a radical, anti-American energy agenda,” he continued.
The White House then announced on Jan. 23 that it would again send the nomination back to the Senate. But, on March 10, Manchin, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced he would block Daniel-Davis’ nomination from moving forward, explaining that he “cannot, in good conscience, support her or anyone else who will play partisan politics.”
Manchin’s announcement came in response to a leaked Bureau of Ocean Energy Management memo addressed to Daniel-Davis, showing that the agency projected energy security would be bolstered if the administration charged lower royalty rates for an offshore oil and gas lease in Alaska.
“While a 16 ⅔ percent royalty may be more likely to facilitate expeditious and orderly development of [offshore] resources and potentially offer greater energy security to residents of the State of Alaska, a reasonable balancing of the environmental and economic factors for the American public favors the maximum 18 ¾ percent royalty for Cook Inlet leases,” the memo stated.
Daniel-Davis ultimately signed off late last year on the maximum royalty rate option without publicly acknowledging the energy security implications of that decision, sparking Manchin’s condemnation.
On March 28, House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and House Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., announced a probe into Daniel-Davis over the memo and into other DOI energy policy decisions.
In addition, watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed an ethics complaint in 2022 accusing Daniel-Davis of violating federal conflict of interest regulations and the Biden administration’s ethics pledge over her activity related to oil and gas leasing in Alaska.
The complaint alleged that Daniel-Davis’ prior role as the chief of policy and advocacy at NWF influenced her decision to implement the DOI’s oil and gas leasing pause in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the northern region of Alaska. The NWF joined an August 2020 lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to award the ANWR leases while Daniel-Davis was still with the group.
“This latest move tells you all you need to know about the priorities of Secretary Haaland and the Department of the Interior,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
“Rewarding someone unable to achieve confirmation by the Senate, who is also under the cloud of a current ethics complaint no less, with a promotion to an even higher position, seems like a slap in the face to the American public, its elected representatives, and the Constitution,” he added. “Members of Congress are already demanding an audit of the ethics office at Interior and rather than treading lightly they appear to be doubling down.”
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