Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2019

Currently: 54° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Nevada must keep its guard up with new enemy of public lands in power

The new director of the Bureau of Land Management once called climate change a “fiction” and “junk science,” compared it to a unicorn and described climate activism a “cult.”

Now, William Perry Pendley wants Americans to believe something practically as far-fetched as the existence of unicorns — that the extremist personal beliefs he’s been spouting for years won’t have any influence on his work.

Here’s what he told a crowd of about 400 environmental journalists at a conference this month in Colorado: “I have a new job now. I’m a zealous advocate for my client, my client is the American people, and my boss is the president of the United States and (Interior) Secretary (David Bernhardt). What I thought, what I wrote, what I did in the past is irrelevant. I have orders, I have laws to obey, and I intend to do that.”

But given Pendley’s career experience and viewpoints, there’s little reason to trust that he can park his personal views outside the door when he goes to work.

Pendley came to the BLM after a career attacking environmental protection efforts as an attorney for a conservative nonprofit organization. He’s also a right-wing pundit who contributed to and the National Review. He’s spread the poison gospel of climate denial for years and has called the Environmental Protection Act “a joke.”

This guy even denied the existence of a hole in the ozone layer.

For Nevada, this is something to watch closely.

Pendley is more than an advocate for causes like removing restrictions on drilling and opening environmentally sensitive areas to other kinds of commercial development, he’s a flame-throwing radical for them. In fact, Pendley’s comments about impartiality came moments after he referred to plans to stop drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands “absolutely insane” and criticized a lawsuit by a group of young people over the government’s failure to stop climate change.

Now he’s part of a like-minded administration, where he directs policy at the BLM and will have significant influence up the chain in the Department of Interior.

That’s deeply concerning for our state.

The BLM oversees 63% of the land in Nevada, and Pendley’s appointment was an unmistakable sign by the Trump administration that it wants to open it for oil and gas exploration and any number of other commercial uses.

What’s more, Pendley also believes the government shouldn’t own any land and has expressed solidarity with the anti-government sovereign-citizen movement championed by the likes of radical Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his militia supporters.

Pendley poses a threat to our wildlife and our sensitive environmental areas, our groundwater and our air quality, not to mention our increasingly vibrant outdoor economy. Recreational opportunities for Nevada residents could be affected too.

With Pendley in place, Nevada lawmakers and government leaders must be vigilant in monitoring the BLM’s actions and blocking any that would hurt the state.