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Joe Biden Selects Deb Haaland As First Native American Interior Secretary: Report


US President-elect Joe Biden has chosen congresswoman Deb Haaland to serve as the first Native American interior secretary, US media reported Thursday, in a move that could recast the department's often troubled ties with indigenous tribes.

Haaland is a first-term Democrat from New Mexico in the US Congress and a member of the Laguna Pueblo people. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become the first Native American to lead a cabinet-level department.

The choice fits with Biden's much-publicized pledge to form the most diverse White House cabinet in history.

The Interior Department is a vast agency of more than 70,000 employees overseeing the country's natural resources, including national parks, and oil and gas drilling sites, as well as tribal lands -- home to 578 federally recognized tribes.

In Congress, the 60-year-old Haaland has prioritized the improvement of services to tribal communities, especially assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt Native American families.

"It would be an honor to move the Biden-Harris climate agenda forward, help repair the government-to-government relationship with tribes that the Trump Administration has ruined, and serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary in our nation's history," Haaland said in a statement published by The New York Times.

Biden also has reportedly tapped Michael Regan, a top North Carolina environmental regulator who brokered the nation's largest coal ash cleanup, to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regan, who is Black, served at the EPA in the Clinton and Bush administrations. He would be tasked with helping to carry out Biden's ambitious climate plans, which call for embracing clean energy and crafting higher fuel-efficiency standards for the country's automobiles and trucks.

Biden's transition team did not publicly confirm either pick.

But several of Haaland's congressional colleagues offered congratulations on what would be a historic nomination.

Biden's pick is nevertheless seen as a tough political call because he would be removing a Democrat from the House of Representatives at a time when the party's majority there is hanging by a thread.

But a public campaign supporting Haaland's nomination gained steam, and dozens of tribal leaders called on Biden to choose her.

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