A leaked internal Biden administration memo — which showed officials prioritizing climate change over energy security — could force the White House to pull the plug on a key nominee.
In the Nov. 25 memo, former Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton recommended that the Department of the Interior (DOI) charge energy companies a royalty rate of 18.75%, the highest allowable rate under the law, for a 958,202-acre offshore oil and gas lease sale in Alaska. Lefton acknowledged in the recommendation that charging a lower rate of 16.67% would likely “offer greater energy security,” but wouldn’t properly account for climate change.
“While a 16 ⅔ percent royalty may be more likely to facilitate expeditious and orderly development of OCS 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,” Lefton wrote in the memo.
The memo was addressed to DOI Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis who ultimately signed off on the 18.75% rate recommendation one day later in a public record of decision without mentioning the energy security analysis of lower royalty rates. On Dec. 30, the DOI held the lease sale, garnering a single bid worth $63,983 for a 2,304-acre tract.
But Daniel-Davis’ involvement in prioritizing the Biden administration’s environmental goals over “greater energy security” could threaten her pending nomination to be the DOI’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, a powerful position that would give her oversight of key oil and gas decisions. Her nomination, which has already been delayed for two years, remains before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
On Friday, after the memo was leaked, committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., indicated he may not support Daniel-Davis moving forward in a potential fatal blow to her nomination.
“The contents of this memo speak volumes — if this is what this Administration truly believes and is how they are going to make decisions, it is unacceptable,” Manchin said in a statement on Friday. “It’s a clear and intentional threat to energy security and the all-of-the above energy policy Congress has consistently reinforced.”
“I will not support anyone who agrees with this type of misguided reasoning.”
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. The White House announced on Jan. 23 that it would again send the nomination back to the Senate.
Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, have doubled down on their opposition to Daniel-Davis in the wake of the memo leaked last week.
“Under Laura Daniel-Davis’ leadership, [DOI] has worked overtime to halt American oil & natural gas development on federal lands,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the ranking member of the panel, tweeted on Friday. “All of [Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee GOP] voted against her confirmation last Congress. Her nomination should be withdrawn immediately.”
Fellow Republican committee members Sens. James Risch of Idaho and Steve Daines of Montana agreed that the memo was the latest reason that the nomination should be pulled.
“I opposed the nomination of Laura Daniel-Davis in 2021 and 2022. If her nomination is not withdrawn — as it absolutely should be — I will oppose it again in 2023,” Risch told Fox News Digital. “This Department of Interior report confirms my existing concerns about her flawed policy beliefs and further disqualifies Daniel-Davis from serving in this important role.”
“Laura Daniel-Davis’ nomination should have been pulled over a year ago when she first failed to pass committee,” Daines added in a statement to Fox News Digital. “The latest attack on oil and gas is no surprise. The Biden administration, his out of touch nominees and Senate Democrats have long put the cult of climate change ahead of energy security and local communities.”
Meanwhile, Barrasso and the other Republican members of the committee penned a letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, to Daniel-Davis on Feb. 28, demanding she respond to a series of previously-asked questions that they said she has failed to answer. They also criticized her for working with Democrats to bypass a third confirmation hearing.
In a separate letter Monday, Barrasso questioned Daniel-Davis about her statement during a 2021 confirmation hearing that the Biden administration had approved more than 9,000 fossil fuel drilling permits that have been unused by industry. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently acknowledged that the figure, also repeated by Biden and high-ranking White House officials, was inaccurate.
“I have grave concerns about the discrepancy in BLM data, as this appears to be far from just an honest mistake,” Barrasso wrote. “You have the responsibility to ensure that statistics made available to the public, such as this permitting data, are complete and accurate. You have failed in both regards, and the American public has been misled as a result.”
And, in September, the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust filed an ethics complaint against Daniel-Davis, accusing her of violating conflict of interest laws related to the DOI’s move in 2021 to an oil and gas leasing pause in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The group said her previous position at an environmental group had potentially influenced her actions.
The DOI declined to comment and the White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.