Energy & Environment

Federal land agency chief releases 17-page recusal list

William Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has released a 17-page recusal list highlighting a number of people, companies and advocacy groups he must avoid while working at the agency.

The disclosure shows Pendley’s ties to a number of industries that BLM regulates as it works to balance energy, grazing and recreational interests along with conservation. The recusal document was first reported by E&E News.

Pendley, who has drawn controversy over his past advocacy for selling off the nation’s public lands, shared the recusal list with BLM leadership.{mosads}

“I understand that preserving a culture of ethical compliance within the BLM begins with me, and I must set the example for the Bureau,” Pendley wrote in an email sharing the recusal list.

“To do so, I am following the DEO’s guidance and sharing my recusal agreement with you,” Pendley wrote, referring to the Department of Interior’s Departmental Ethics Office.

Pendley, who was appointed acting director over the summer, added he has “established a rigorous screening process to ensure that I will remain in full compliance” with ethics laws.

The 60 entities outlined by Pendley include at least seven energy companies he is recused from dealing with, including the National Mining Association and various oil companies. The list also outlines a number of other companies that stand to benefit from the use of public lands.

“This is a long list of recusals,” said Delaney Marsco, legal council for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center. “If these matters relate to his job in some way, and they likely do if has to recuse himself from them, it’s troubling that there’s so much of a person’s job that they can’t do.”

Aaron Weiss, deputy director of Western Priorities, a conservation watchdog group, also questioned whether the bureau chief’s recusal list would interfere with his ability to lead the agency.

“A BLM director has to balance multiple uses and that means balancing conservation and recreation and energy development and ranching, and if in any given decisions the BLM director is conflicted in one way or another with any of those interests, there’s no way for them to make good decisions,” Weiss said.

“Looking at the breadth of Pendley’s conflicts, it’s hard to see how he can do the job because he has worked for so many clients across the West.”

The list released Wednesday shows that Pendley has recused himself from dealing with a number of state-based farm bureaus as well as the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. Those groups sometimes advocate for greater access to public lands for farmers and ranchers.

Pendley also recused himself from dealing with four different helicopter tour companies and the United States Air Tour Association. Websites for the companies advertise tours over the Grand Canyon.

The recusal list additionally bars Pendley from dealing with some of the entities for just one year, despite the Trump Ethics Pledge requiring a two-year recusal period.

“I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts,” the pledge reads, which includes similar language for former lobbying clients. 

Pendley also vowed to consult ethics officials before taking speaking engagements tied to his books: “War on the West: Government Tyranny on America’s Frontier” and “Warriors for the West: Fighting Bureaucrats, Radical Groups, and Liberal Judges on America’s Frontier.” 

Tags BLM Bureau of Land Management

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