Today the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of WildEarth Guardians, delivered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and Office of Surface Mining. These actions seek to reveal what Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is planning for our public lands and force the Trump administration to comply with baseline transparency conventions regarding its recent anti-climate executive order and secretarial order (No. 3349). These orders direct the agencies to identify climate policies that would be targeted for removal by the new administration.
Today’s FOIA requests aim to shine a light on fossil fuel industry influence over the orders via email or other communications, and to force the administration to release internal agency records otherwise hidden from public view. These include a review of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas methane waste rule, finalized in 2016 and subject to attack by oil and gas industry interests through litigation and repeal using the arcane Congressional Review Act. Under FOIA, the agencies must determine whether or not to respond to the requests within 20 workdays, or face litigation.
“President Trump and Secretary Zinke seek to eliminate core safeguards for public health, clean air and water, the climate, and our public lands,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “The administration appears to think that these safeguards are ‘burdens’ on the fossil fuel industry. If the administration believes that, it should release its records immediately to ensure transparency and accountability to the public.”
Understanding how the administration defines and seeks to eliminate these “burdens” is extremely important for residents of energy extraction areas, so they are able to recognize how their communities and inalienable rights to clean air and water will be affected. Even under President Obama, domestic oil production nearly doubled and domestic coal now fulfills 83 percent of our needs. That development came with a cost.
“In the Four Corners Greater Chaco region, water is scarce and air quality is persistently poor. The area’s native communities live in one of largest energy sacrifice zones in the nation, and oil and gas development is coming increasingly close to their sacred Chaco Culture National Historical Park,” noted Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy program. “These FOIAs will help us understand how to best strategize a resistance to the grave risk of Trump further exploiting these people and the lands that belong to them and the American public.”
These FOIA requests will also help support resistance to intensified exploitation in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, the Colorado River Valley, and the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming–all areas hit hard by energy development.
Supporting Files: 2017.04.25-FOIA Request-Zinke SO BLM.pdf