The Senate voted to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning as director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the primary leasing agency for oil and gas drilling and production on federal onshore lands.
The 50-45 vote followed party lines, with five Republicans not voting. Stone-Manning had the advantage of experience on the staff of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who helped win the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with descriptions of the candidate as someone who brings people together to achieve effective compromises on natural resource management.
Stone-Manning “faithfully served Senator Tester for five years in positions of trust and responsibility on his staff,” Manchin said on the Senate floor before the evening vote. “She went on to serve Governor Bullock of Montana, for two years as the director of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality and two more as Governor Bullock’s chief of staff.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Mont.) spoke against her nomination and emphasized her past association with an “eco-terrorist” group that sabotaged federal timber by driving metal spikes into trees. While she herself was not accused of tree-spiking, she colluded with those who did and stone-walled a criminal investigation, during which she accepted an immunity deal to testify, Barrasso said.
Her most recent job was as a senior adviser to the National Wildlife Federation. In March, when she testified to a congressional subcommittee, she endorsed a full array of cost increases for oil and gas work on federal lands: higher oil and gas royalties, rents, minimum bid amounts, bonding, inspection fees, and penalties. She argued for less oil and gas leasing, and she advocated imposing royalties on all methane, including methane leaked, flared, or vented.
The BLM is given some discretion in such matters, so long as rulemaking procedures are followed, while many changes would require an act of Congress. The pending $3.5 trillion budget bill will serve as the vehicle for many of those changes if it is passed with the recommendations of the House Natural Resources Committee (OGJ Online, Sept. 10, 2021).