William Perry Pendley, the attorney now running the Bureau of Land Management, oversees federal coal leases despite pushing for a fire sale of coal leases more than three decades ago that led to a federal probe in which he was referred for possible criminal prosecution.
Pendley and another Interior appointee ate an infamous $494 dinner – the equivalent of $1,343 today – at a Washington, D.C.. restaurant in March 1982 with their wives and two coal industry attorneys on the same day that they helped change the bidding system for the coal leases. One of the bidders for the coal leases paid for the dinner.
Twelve U.S. senators want to end Pendley’s job as acting director, citing his work to expand oil and gas development on public land and support for selling off public land.
The Justice Department declined to file charges, saying there was a lack of “jury appeal” because only a single meal was involved and that there were conflicting accounts by witnesses. Pendley was demoted in December 1983 and left the Interior Department in February 1984.
Twelve U.S. senators asked Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in late September to end Pendley’s job as acting director, citing his work to expand oil and gas development on public land and support for selling off public land. The BLM oversees nearly 250 million acres of public land, roughly the size of Texas and California combined, more land than any other federal agency.
“As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an acting director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency,” the senators wrote.
Bernhardt plans to move BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo. where the agency will share an office building with oil and gas companies that it will regulate. The move and Pendley’s appointment are widely viewed an effort to force out employees much like the forced relocation to Kansas City, Mo., for researchers at the Department of Agriculture.
The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since Trump took office. Bernhardt sidestepped the Senate confirmation needed for the appointee who runs the BLM and appointed Pendley as acting director in July until Sept. 30, the last day of fiscal 2019. Bernhardt reappointed Pendley on Sept. 30 until Jan. 3.
The Office of Government Ethics has not released a financial disclosure form for Pendley. Pendley sent BLM employees a 17-page list of 57 organizations, companies and people for which he should not participate in BLM discussions or decisions.
The list includes Mountain States Legal Foundation, the nonprofit law firm whose first president was James Watt. Pendley ran the law firm, which advocates for private property rights, for almost 30 years and sued the Interior Department at least 40 times.
The Powder River Basin where coal leases were sold during the Reagan administration at $60 million to $100 million under fair market value is the size of West Virginia and straddles southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming. The basin is our nation’s largest coal-producing region and produces more than 40% of coal mined in the U.S. It accounts for more than 10% of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions.
As acting director of the bureau, Pendley will oversee the same coal leasing program that he came under criminal investigation for. Lease sales to a single bidder are the norm, typically for $1 per ton of coal or less in the Powder River Basin.
Just before Trump took office, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a review of the coal leasing program with recommendations on how to make it more competitive, but her successor, Ryan Zinke, squashed that.
Thieves and scoundrels spotted among COVID-19 bail out recipients
The Trump Administration’s reluctant disclosure of the names of more than 600,000 recipients of Paycheck Protection Program aid has shown that many of the loans went to firms that are well-connected and that otherwise don’t fit the image of mom-and-pop businesses we were led to believe would be the main beneficiaries.
There is another problem: many of the recipients previously engaged in behavior that amounts to paycheck endangerment. They failed to comply with minimum wage and/or overtime requirements and thus paid their workers less than what they were owed. In other words, they engaged in wage theft.
How Republicans are using technology to deny your right to vote
How do you win an election? You could gain a majority of votes. Or you can cheat—as Republicans have been doing in force since 2010—with gerrymandering and other forms of suppression across the country so the minority party can gain and hold power even as its numbers shrink.
Now those who would discourage or disable unwanted ballots have a new potential tool: voting machines. If there aren’t enough working machines to enable people to cast their ballots, you blunt their will.
A new civil war erupts inside Trump’s VA as Secretary Robert Wilkie is accused of pushing white supremacy
Long before Donald Trump exposed himself as a cheerleader for white supremacy, workers at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs were complaining that the Neo-Confederate running the agency didn’t care about them and was “mimicking” the racist-in-chief.
Trump picked Robert Wilkie to run the VA in 2018, despite, or because of, the former naval intelligence officer’s long-established love affair with the 19th Century traitor Jefferson Davis and the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy.