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Lawsuit Seeks Public Records on Trump Administration's Collusion With Coal Industry

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the Trump administration for failing to provide public records about closed-door meetings between the U.S. Department of the Interior and fossil-fuel industry executives over the reversal of the Obama administration’s “pause” on coal extraction on federal public lands.

The Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revoked an order issued by former Secretary Sally Jewell that halted most new coal-leasing activities pending the first comprehensive review of the program in almost 40 years. Neither the Interior Department nor the Bureau of Land Management have complied with the request for public records.

“If Trump and Zinke had nothing to hide, they’d comply with our simple request to release meeting records,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center. “Instead the Trump administration continues to plot with fossil fuel executives in secret, making decisions that hurt public health and affect the future of all Americans.”

Despite the coal program’s drain on the federal treasury and its significant contribution to climate change, Zinke ended review of the leasing program on March 27 and directed the Interior Department and the BLM “to process coal lease applications and modifications expeditiously.” His order followed numerous accounts of clandestine meetings between top Trump administration officials and coal industry lobbyists.

The Center’s FOIA request seeks all communications between top Interior officials and the coal industry. The BLM has completely ignored the request and is now months overdue with a response as required by federal law. The Interior Department said it had received the “complex” request, but is now months late with a lawful response.

“Ryan Zinke has turned the Department of the Interior into the Department of Special Interests,” said Snape. “The public has every right to know who Zinke and his staff are meeting with, especially when it comes to policies that will have disastrous consequences for our public lands and climate. But time after time, Zinke appears to be putting the American people last.”


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