For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Yvonne Chi, Earthjustice -, (303) 996-9623

Interior Department Attempts to Ram Through Rules Change Stifling Public Information Requests

Effort, spearheaded by former Koch operative Jorjani and ex-lobbyist Bernhardt, would limit public access to records pertaining to Interior’s dangerous actions

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of the Interior advanced a proposal to restrict Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public in a clear attempt to benefit dirty energy and anti-public lands industry lobbyists and their allies seeking to extract policy changes from the Trump administration. Earthjustice, the nation’s leading environmental law organization, joined a letter with over 100 organizations across the country on a letter opposing the effort.

The move follows Interior’s announcement that it was only extending the public comment period on the rollback by one day due to the government shutdown. Bernhardt’s associate during his time at Interior during the Bush administration and former Koch Foundation strategist, Daniel Jorjani, quietly advanced the plan while tens of thousands of department employees nationwide worked without pay during the government shutdown


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The following is a statement from Yvonne Chi, an attorney at Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office:

“Interior’s move is a clear threat to the principles of transparency and accountability at the heart of our democracy. It is obvious that industry’s hand-picked representatives running the show at the Interior Department will stop at nothing to prevent the public from getting access to real information about their dealings. Earthjustice will use every tool available to us to stop this dangerous attack and protect our right to the information we need to protect our planet and its people.”

Freedom of Information Act Requests: Protecting the Public’s Right to Hold Government Accountable

  • Earthjustice discovered through FOIA records that locations of uranium mining claims informed the Trump administration’s decision on where to draw new boundaries for the Bears Ears National Monument: the new boundaries conveniently excluded areas where claims have been located or areas with significant uranium potential. In addition, it was uncovered that the administration met with representatives from uranium companies prior to the drawing of the new boundaries.
  • FOIA requests played a key role in identifying the rampant misuse of taxpayer dollars under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.
  • FOIA records showed that administration officials dismissed the importance of national monuments highlighted from public feedback gathered during the comment period and moved ahead with monuments reductions anyway.
  • Advocates in the Appalachian region used FOIA to confirm that the Department of the Interior had no real reason to cancel an important National Academy of Sciences looking into the health effects of mountaintop removal mining.
  • Earthjustice is currently making use of FOIA to determine if the administration adequately investigated the potential presence of toxic substances near its immigrant detention centers within military bases and whether it violated pivotal health and safety requirements in the process.

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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