NBC Montana: Tester calls to speed up confirmation hearing for BLM director nominee

by Maritsa Georgiou

MISSOULA, Mont. – Sen. Jon Tester wants an expedited Senate confirmation hearing for William Perry Pendley, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management.

Tester and other Pendley opponents, including Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), held a press call Tuesday outlining their issues with the nominee.

Interior Sec. David Bernhardt named Pendley the acting director of the BLM nearly a year ago.

Pendley’s critics say he has a history of being one of the greatest public lands opponents and call him unfit to head the agency that manages more than 245 million acres of public lands.

Tester says Pendley ran the anti-public lands group Mountain States Legal Foundation and served as counsel for a firm that wanted to restore drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area. Tester wants the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Sen. Steve Daines sits on, to speed up the confirmation hearing so they can question Pendley on his record.

“Pendley has supported extremists, defended leases issued on sacred tribal land without tribal consultation and worked to undermine wildlife habitat protections based on years of careful negotiations,” Tester said. “He has proven unwilling to work with local communities on collaborative solutions and is not a credible honest broker on land management or tribal sovereignty issues that come before the agency.”

We reached out to Daines’ office for comment. A spokesperson said, “This is nothing more than an election year, political stunt and a diversion to take away from what is happening tomorrow as the House of Representatives will be voting on one of the greatest conservation wins in 50 years, the Great American Outdoors Act.”

We pressed for clarification on Daines’ stance on this nominee and were told if Pendley comes before the committee for a hearing, Daines will have very tough questions for him to answer.

Eight other senators signed on to Tester’s letter to the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It calls for Pendley’s confirmation hearing to be held as soon as possible.

This new letter was sent a day after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sued to remove Pendley from his post, saying federal law prohibits acting directors from serving while their nomination is pending.