Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Judge Kicks William Pendley Out Of Illegal Role As Trump’s Bureau Of Land Management Acting Director

It has been an absolute rollercoaster of a week for anyone who cares about our public lands. It all started last Friday when a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) beleaguered acting director should be removed from his illegally held position.

Originally published on the blog of Union of Concerned Scientists.
By Maria Caffrey, climate scientist

It has been an absolute rollercoaster of a week for anyone who cares about our public lands. It all started last Friday when a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) beleaguered acting director should be removed from his illegally held position.

The BLM has gone four years without a Senate-approved director since Neil Kornze left the role in 2017. Since then, William Pendley was the agency’s fourth acting director after being assigned the position in July 2019. However, his tenure has been far from typical as President Trump waited almost a year to formally nominate him for Senate approval before withdrawing the nomination last month after fierce backlash from environmental groups and others.

Typically, an unsuccessful attempt at Senate approval results in the candidate being removed from their acting role so that someone better qualified could fill it, but that was not the case here.  Instead Pendley was allowed to continue illegally leading the agency, despite a seemingly unlimited number of conflicts of interest, which resulted in a federal court case challenging the constitutionality of his assignment.

So it was a sweet relief when I heard that the federal courts had finally ruled that Pendley should be removed from his position. Indeed it should be celebrated that a man who once claimed that the founding fathers intended for all public lands to be sold and that climate science is “junk science” is no longer the acting leader of a federal agency that manages 10 percent of the US landmass.

This relief, however, turned to profound disappointment on Monday when Interior Secretary Bernhardt announced in a show of full support that he would retain Pendley in his current role as Deputy Director of Policy and Programs and simply remove “exercising the authority of the director” from his title – thereby allowing him to continue to exert significant influence towards his anti-public lands agenda.

Acting in violation of federal law

Federal law requires that any “temporary” appointment should not exceed 210 days, which Mr. Pendley far exceeded by serving 424 days as acting director. In June this year the Trump administration announced a new attempt to have Pendley confirmed by the Senate after the BLM and National Park Service were sued for their illegal hiring practices. These hiring practices were in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 and described by my colleague Andrew Rosenberg as “just one more example of this administration ignoring laws that it finds inconvenient despite swearing to uphold those laws.”

Last month Montana Governor Steve Bullock filed a motion with the courts asserting that Pendley’s tenure as acting director was unconstitutional, which led to Friday’s decision that Pendley must be removed from the role of acting director.

A win, for now

Beyond Pendley’s removal as acting director, this decision has also opened the door to anyone who would like to challenge decisions Pendley made during his illegal tenure, including the BLM’s controversial relocation to Colorado and a number of oil and gas leases.  (Though that would not prevent the next acting director, whoever that may be, from trying to reissue those orders.)

The bigger issue though is that Pendley is still at the BLM in a leadership role. To the casual observer, it might seem the removal of his acting director title means that Pendley will no longer wield any power at the BLM, yet the agency’s updated organizational chart still shows him atop the chain of command — albeit accompanied by Deputy Director of Operations Michael Nedd, who will presumably be given the new official title of acting director.

It is highly irregular for an administration to go four years without successfully gaining Senate approval of a director for such a large federal agency. And once again the BLM is now without a leader, which raises the question: Is it better for the agency to be led by the wrong person or by no one at all? The answer of course is that both cause harm, and that an actually qualified person should be put in place as quickly as possible.

It is not normal for an administration to so blatantly ignore federal laws such as the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. These actions undermine our democracy and erode public trust in our federal agencies. Still, for anyone who cares about protecting public lands, Friday’s court decision is something to feel positive about—and motivation to continue our fight against such actions and do everything we can to protect the people’s lands.

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people, organizations, agencies, and companies.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

CAÑON CITY, Colorado — The Bureau of Land Management announced today it is auctioning 1,064 acres of public land for solar energy production in...

Fossil Fuels

Proposal to Lease More Public Waters in Gulf of Mexico Harms Climate, Puts Communities, Wildlife and Businesses at Risk

Clean Power

Power plant developers and operators have reported plans to install more than 6 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity at sites mostly along the...

Clean Power

Courtesy of the US Dept of the Interior. Las Vegas, Nevada — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Nevada [yesterday], where she announced significant...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.