Activist Group’s Leader Declines To Participate In House Hearing On Her Org’s Alleged Influence Over Biden Admin

The head of an activist organization alleged to have improperly influenced official Department of the Interior (DOI) decisions declined to participate in a Tuesday congressional hearing addressing the subject.

Julia Fay Bernal, the head of the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA), declined to take up the House Committee on Natural Resource’s invitation to testify at a hearing focusing specifically on “examining the influence of extreme environmental activist groups in the Department of the Interior.” PAA — a group that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s daughter, Somah, works for — is alleged to have improperly influenced the agency’s June 2023 decision to restrict fossil fuel activities in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

“While the extremists at Pueblo Action Alliance appear to have unlimited time and resources for colluding with the Department of Interior, they can’t seem to find a few hours to defend their back-room dealings in a congressional hearing,” Republican Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who chairs the committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “The best medicine is always sunshine, and just as with many actions taken by the administration and its radical friends, their refusal to defend their shadowy dealings speaks volumes about the nature of this relationship.”

 

Haaland’s DOI closed off public lands within ten miles of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon from any future fuel leasing activity in June 2023 for the next twenty years, a move which government watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust said raises ethical questions about Haaland’s impartiality given that her daughter is a member of PAA, which advocated for that exact outcome, according to the text of an August 2023 ethics complaint filed by the watchdog.

The PAA aims “to dismantle and eradicate white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, hetero-patriarchy and extractive colonialism” and to achieve the “rematriation of everything stolen,” according to its website.

The Laguna Pueblo tribe, to which Haaland belongs, celebrated the DOI’s decision to clamp down on leasing activity near Chaco Canyon, but the Navajo Nation opposed the move because it could threaten livelihoods of tribal members, according to the Arizona Republic.

It is unclear what may have prompted Bernal to turn down the committee’s invitation, as the relevant pre-hearing memo simply notes that she “declined to testify.”

The Chaco Canyon decision and PAA’s connections to the Biden administration were raised during the hearing, but Bernal was not present to lay out her perspective on the issue. PAA did not respond to requests for explanations as to why she declined to attend or whether the organization considered the hearing a good opportunity to directly address the issue.

The President of the Wilderness Society, Jamie Williams, also turned down an invitation to testify before the committee.

DOI did not respond immediately to a request for comment.


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