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Lawsuit Seeks Records Behind Secretarial Order to Sidestep, Shortcut Environmental Reviews
Denver—WildEarth Guardians today filed suit over the Trump Administration’s refusal to provide records related to the Department Interior’s controversial attempts to rollback environmental reviews legally required under federal law.
“This suit is about enforcing our American right to an open government and our right to know why the Interior Department is rolling back environmental safeguards,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “With the Trump Administration launching an all-out war on our public lands and climate, it’s more critical than ever to shine the brightest spotlight possible on their actions.”
The lawsuit takes aim at the Department of the Interior’s failure to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by WildEarth Guardians. The request sought all records related to Secretarial Order 3355, which was signed on August 31, 2017 and directed Interior Department agencies to streamine legally required environmental reviews for federal actions.
Interior agencies include the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Surface Mining, and others. Collectively, Interior Department agencies oversee vast tracts of public lands, parks, rivers, wildlife, and even Indian Tribes.
Interior agencies even oversee all offshore and onshore oil and gas drilling, and coal mining.
The effect of Secretarial Order 3355 is that agencies will downplay and overlook the environmental implications of their actions, making it easier for oil companies to drill, coal companies to mine, and dam builders to build at the expense of a healthy environment.
“Make no mistake, Secretarial Order 3355 is about the Interior Department turning its back on its duty to protect the American public from the greed of private developers,” said Nichols. “We aim to expose the Interior Department’s agenda of turning our public lands and resources into a feeding trough for miners, drillers, and developers.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, federal agencies are required to respond and produce responsive records within 20 work-days. WildEarth Guardians submitted its request on September 5, 2017 and has yet to receive a response. Today’s suit seeks to compel a long overdue response.
“The Trump Administration’s track record of transparency is so bad that we have to head to court to get information that should be readily available to the public,” said Nichols. “For an Administration that’s supposedly about empowering the people and draining the swamp, this is shameful.”