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Lawsuit Seeks Documents on Trump Administration's Ties to Coal Industry

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today for public records of closed-door meetings between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and industry executives over the reversal of the Obama administration’s “pause” on coal extraction on federal public lands.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke revoked Secretarial Order No. 3338, issued in January 2016 by his predecessor, Sally Jewell, who had ordered a moratorium on most new coal-leasing activities until the completion of the first comprehensive review of the program since 1979. Despite the coal program’s drain on the federal treasury and its significant contribution to climate change, Zinke not only ended the review on March 27 but also directed the BLM “to process coal lease applications and modifications expeditiously.”

“It’s deeply troubling to see the Trump administration opening the door to coal industry executives but shutting out the public when it comes to information about decisions that affect the health and future of all Americans,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center.

The Center submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the BLM in March after Zinke issued his order and after numerous reports of secret meetings between top Trump administration officials and coal industry executives. The FOIA request sought all communications by top Interior officials with lobbyists from the coal industry and associated political interests. The BLM has completely ignored the request and is now weeks overdue with a response as mandated by federal law. Today’s lawsuit addresses that failure to respond.

“Ryan Zinke is rapidly turning the Department of the Interior into the most secretive agency in the federal government just so he can protect the special interests that are calling the shots,” said Snape. “The public has every right to know who Zinke and others are meeting with, especially when it comes to policies that will have disastrous consequences for our public lands and climate.”


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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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