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As Workers Suffer From Shutdown, Groups Accuse Trump of 'Rolling Out the Red Carpet' for Oil and Gas Drilling

"Furloughed federal workers can't pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil fuel corporations."

A Shell Oil Polar Pioneer rig platform as it moved from Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Tim Exton/AFP/Getty Images)

Accusing the Trump administration of "rolling out the red carpet" for the fossil fuel industry as hundreds of thousands federal workers continue to suffer from the ongoing government shutdown, a coalition of environmental groups filed a formal complaint on Thursday alleging that the Interior Department's decision to continue processing oil and gas drilling permits during the partial shutdown is illegal.

"While the government shutdown has stopped paychecks for 800,000 federal workers, Trump is making sure that the shutdown doesn't get in the way of the government's work to intensify a climate crisis that threatens to kill everyone on the planet."
—David Sirota, Capital & Main
Because the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cannot post information about the drilling applications due to the shutdown, the groups argued, it is unlawfully blocking the public from participating in the process or raising objections.

"In short, it is impossible for the public to inspect or otherwise provide meaningful feedback on any pending [applications or environmental reviews] related to these applications," WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in their filing (pdf), which calls on the Interior Department to completely stop processing drilling permits until the government is reopened.

In a statement on Thursday, Taylor McKinnon—public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity—declared that the "only thing trashier than our national parks during this shutdown has been the Trump administration's coddling of the oil industry."

"Furloughed federal workers can't pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil fuel corporations," McKinnon said. "Not one new lease or drilling permit should be allowed under these conditions."

"We've been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it," added Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians.

The coalition's formal objection comes as congressional Democrats and former Interior Department officials are also raising alarm at the Trump administration's decision to continue issuing drilling permits as the government is partially closed.

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In a letter responding to the Interior Department's decision to bring back dozens of furloughed employees to work on offshore drilling permits and a Gulf of Mexico oil lease sale, a group of House Democrats called the move "outrageous" and said the department's justifications are "farcical."

The decision, the Democrats argued, demonstrates that the Trump administration only cares about the shutdown's "impacts on its favorite industry and not its workers, their families, and ordinary Americans."

Responding to a Bloomberg report detailing how the Trump White House is "working overtime to make sure the shutdown doesn't halt oil drilling," Capital & Main reporter David Sirota declared, "While the government shutdown has stopped paychecks for 800,000 federal workers, Trump is making sure that the shutdown doesn't get in the way of the government's work to intensify a climate crisis that threatens to kill everyone on the planet."

In a report published on Wednesday, Oil Change International and a coalition of environmental organizations concluded that the Trump administration's fervid commitment to expanding fossil fuel extraction could single-handedly undermine the world's ability to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to avert planetary catastrophe.

"To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we must keep oil, coal, and gas in the ground," May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. "It's time for public officials at every level to follow the lead of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and support bold climate policy."

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