A tie vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee allowed the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director to advance July 22 to the full Senate.
The 10-10 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed, meant the full Senate will be able to vote on the nominee if Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) chooses to call for a vote.
Republicans argued that Stone-Manning, an environmental activist working as a senior adviser to the National Wildlife Federation, was unlikely to honor the multiple-use mandate requiring BLM to balance competing uses of federal lands for oil and gas development, timber harvesting, and grazing, along with the recreation and wildlife habitat protection that activists favor.
Democrats said Stone-Manning, who has been a director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and a staffer for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), has shown over the years that she can bring people together in collaborative work with respect for the multiple-use mandate.
BLM serves as the Interior Department’s leasing agency for federal onshore oil and gas operations as part of its management of 245 million surface acres and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate. In federal fiscal year 2019, US crude oil production from onshore federal lands amounted to 6.1% of all US oil output, according to BLM.
Stone-Manning testified in March to the House Natural Resources Committee that she wanted to see less federal leasing for oil and gas development. She advocated cost increases for oil and gas operators on federal lands: higher royalties, rents, minimum bid amounts, bonding, inspection fees, and penalties, and the imposition of royalties on all methane, including methane leaked, flared, or vented.
Old and recent history
Republicans called attention to Stone-Manning’s involvement with activists who in 1989 sabotaged timber on federal lands. While she herself was not accused of engaging in the “tree spiking” sabotage, she knew of it and obstructed federal investigation of the case for 4 years, Republicans said.
After Biden nominated her as BLM director, she submitted to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee a sworn affidavit in which she said that, to her knowledge, she had never been the target of an investigation for a violation of law, regulation, or ordinance. That was false, GOP senators said.
Democrats dismissed the matter as a mix of old history and quibbling over how to interpret details of the court case and how to judge her affidavit. They suggested Republicans were motivated more by policy disagreements than the nominee’s marginal involvement in the tree-spiking case.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chairman of the committee, said Stone-Manning had been a youthful activist and that she has moderated over the years, much as he himself has changed his views over the years since his youth.
“She built a solid reputation over the past three decades as a dedicated public servant and as a problem solver, who has brought people together,” Manchin said.
Sen. John Barrasso (D-Wyo.), top Republican on the committee, said the nominee’s misleading information on the committee questionnaire was a recent matter, and that other remarks by the nominee over the past year indicate she will not honor the multiple-use mandate.