MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A lawsuit filed today seeks the removal of the controversial acting directors for two federal agencies. The agencies are in charge of millions of acres of public land, energy development and the country's national parks. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management have not had permanent Senate-confirmed directors for the entire Trump presidency. That's a violation of the Constitution, which requires Senate oversight of these key positions, according to a lawsuit filed by two Washington, D.C.- and Idaho-based conservation groups.
PETER JENKINS: And they're just freewheeling, detouring around the Constitution in allowing these lower-level political appointees to be running the show.
SIEGLER: Peter Jenkins is senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
JENKINS: The overall pattern is to weaken the environmental bureaus and allow state interests and private extractive industry interests, particularly in the case the Bureau of Land Management, to be able to call the shots.
SIEGLER: This lawsuit is the latest to shine light on the Trump administration's unprecedented use of acting agency heads. But the groups suing have long been suspicious of William Perry Pendley, in particular, leading the BLM. His temporary appointment has been extended now five times since taking over the agency last summer. Pendley once advocated for transferring ownership of the very public lands he now manages over to states and private interests. But in a recent interview, Pendley told me that is not part of President Trump's agenda.
WILLIAM PERRY PENDLEY: Regardless of what I've said in the past, the one thing is clear is I'm a Marine. I understand how to follow orders, and I follow orders in this case.
SIEGLER: In a statement, the Trump administration called the lawsuit that seeks to oust Pendley and David Vela at the National Park Service baseless and a distraction as the park service, in particular, is trying to safely reopen national parks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.