United States President-elect Joe Biden said he plans to nominate US Representative Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress in 2018, to serve as his interior secretary.

The Biden transition team said in a statement that Haaland was one of several nominees chosen to lead the incoming administration’s fight against climate change.

“This team will advance the President-elect’s agenda leading the world to confront the climate crisis – creating good-paying jobs, building resilient communities, and making historic investments in environmental justice,” according to the statement.

Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico and a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, would be the first Native American cabinet secretary and the first to oversee the department, whose jurisdiction includes tribal lands.

Honored and ready to serve

Haaland was the leading candidate for the job, which would give her authority over a department that employs more than 70,000 people across the US. The interior department also oversees more than 20 percent of the nation’s surface, including tribal lands and national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

In a tweet, Haaland said she was “honored and ready to serve”.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she tweeted. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

Haaland was one of the first two Native American women ever elected to the US Congress when she won New Mexico’s first congressional district in 2018. The other was Sharice Davids of Kansas.
A lawyer by profession, she campaigned on a platform of tackling climate change and income inequality, as well as providing universal healthcare.

Haaland said that she would seek to usher in an expansion of renewable energy production on federal land to contribute to the fight against climate change and undo President Donald Trump’s focus on bolstering fossil fuel output.

If nominated, Haaland would step down from her seat in the US House, where Democrats already are facing a slim majority in 2021 after losing seats in the 2020 election. Biden also nominated Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If confirmed, Regan would be the first Black man to run the EPA.

Jim Marston, former head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s state initiatives program where Regan previously worked, said that he was not surprised he emerged as a top contender to lead the EPA. “He could talk with, work with industry. And his own personal history allows him to really relate … to working-class folks who are the workers in plants that need to be regulated,” Marston said.

Biden also on Thursday nominated Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be his energy secretary and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to be his climate adviser. Rounding out his environmental and energy-related picks, Biden on Wednesday announced the nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary.