ALBUQUERQUE — The Bureau of Land Management says it will challenge a judge’s ruling that ousted William Perry Pendley as director of the agency last week. In the meantime, Pendley is still at the agency, and influencing BLM policies.
For the past few years, the Trump administration has avoided confirmation hearings by putting acting officials in charge of top agencies and departments. The judge found Pendley had been on the job illegally for more than 400 days without a Senate confirmation.
Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the administration has used shortcuts to advance controversial policies.
“Despite this strong rebuke of how they have essentially violated the law,” he said, “Pendley is still at the Bureau of Land Management and still in his role, and still working on his agenda while he’s there.”
Pendley’s title now is deputy director of policy and programs, a senior leadership position at the BLM that manages and protects public lands. Last week’s court ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by Montana’s governor.
The judge’s order also opens the door to questions about whether Pendley’s decisions during his tenure are valid or should be thrown out. Under Pendley’s leadership, the BLM has expanded oil and gas drilling in several states, including New Mexico. O’Neill said he believes by appealing the judge’s decision, the BLM is trying to save face.
“Ultimately, when it comes down to it,” he said, “this appeal is going to cost taxpayers more money that, in any person’s reading of not only the U.S. Constitution but also the law and what the judge has ruled, has said they have violated.”
Pendley has been a controversial figure from his first day on the job. He’s been an oil-and-gas industry attorney, publicly doubts climate change, and headed a conservative foundation that called for the elimination of all public lands.
The lawsuit is online at peer.org.