Trump's Nominee to Oversee Federal Lands Has 50 Conflicts of Interest
August 5, 2020
William Perry Pendley, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has said that the government should sell federal lands, denied climate change, wants to weaken the Endangered Species Act and has sued BLM and the Interior Department repeatedly over the course of his career. His history of litigation against the agency that Trump has finally nominated him to lead—after nearly a year as its acting head—generated a list of potential conflicts of interest that is literally 17 pages long. With so many conflicts, what is left for Pendley to do as head of BLM?
When he initially joined the agency, which administers 245 million acres of federal lands and 30% of the country’s minerals, Pendley issued a 17-page list of 57 potential conflicts that he had to recuse from, including his former employer, the Mountain States Legal foundation (MSLF), his book publisher, and initially the Washington Examiner where he was a frequent blog contributor. Seven of those recusals have expired, and 50 are still in effect. The majority of the conflicts stem from clients that he represented at MSLF, including several airline and helicopter companies, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the American Exploration & Mining Association, the National Mining Association and the Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming Farm Bureau Federations.
Of course Pendley should not be allowed to work on matters related to his former employer, but recusing becomes a lot more complicated when his former employer has sued BLM and it’s parent agency the Department of Interior so frequently, and on behalf of so many clients, that Pendley’s work could be severely restricted. Not only that, but his past work has also conflicted Pendley out of party matters related to two major trade groups that would seek to influence BLM. It is hard to imagine how he could administer federal lands and minerals if he couldn’t make decisions related to multiple mining trade associations, five state’s farm bureau federations, or ideally any of the issues that his former employer has sued on.