‘Our plates are full’: Biden agency chief says staff too busy to notify state about major reversal

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Mountains in Alaska are seen from on board Air Force One, Thursday, May 19, 2022, en route Osan Air Base in South Korea. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)
Mountains in Alaska are seen from on board Air Force One, Thursday, May 19, 2022, en route Osan Air Base in South Korea. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

By Harold Hutchison
Daily Caller News Foundation

The director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claimed that the agency had no time to advise Alaska of a significant reversal of policy during a Thursday hearing.

BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning made the assertion during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing while being grilled by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over multiple restrictions on energy and mining projects which drew fire from Native American groups in the state and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska. Murkowski told Stone-Manning that the restrictions, including a reversal of the Ambler Access Project, which would have made a copper mine viable, felt “like an onslaught.”

“BLM is restricting development wherever and however it can,” Murkowski told Stone-Manning. “And we’ve seen this in our petroleum reserve, we’ve seen this in the Tenor 2 area, with the public land orders, resource management plans, the rejection of the Ambler Access project, it feels like an onslaught to me.”

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Murkowski then asked Stone-Manning about the agency’s reversal on PLL 5150, which she said her office “just learned about yesterday” from the office of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska.

“I don’t understand how you can sit here and how those in your department, all up to the Secretary can sit here and make these empty promises and break them whenever you feel like you want to break them,” Murkowski told Stone-Manning. “So, I want to know, who cancelled BLM’s commitment to move forward on the state of Alaska’s compromise on PLL 5150 and if it wasn’t you, who was it?”

Murkowski ripped Stone-Manning, who edited a radical environmentalist newsletter that celebrated a failed investigation into a 1989 tree-spiking incident, for giving her office “zero word” on the abrupt reversal on the resource management plans.

The lead investigator in the tree-spiking probe said in a 2021 letter to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming that Stone-Manning was “an active member” of the group responsible for the tree-spiking and had “known all along” who had perpetrated the actions.

“My conversation with the commissioner last week was about how we’re up against some timing issues and some workload issues throughout the department,” Stone-Manning claimed as Murkowski interrupted to ask a question, “Our plates are full and that we’re not moving forward with the EA in the timeline that we had originally.”

“I don’t understand what you just said,” Murkowski said. “Is the project cancelled?”

Stone-Manning denied that the project was cancelled, but did admit that the project was delayed, and after stammering repeated her earlier claim that the agency’s “plates are full.”

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