This month, WildEarth Guardians stepped up in a huge way to enforce transparency under President Trump.
In the last week, we’ve submitted multiple requests under the Freedom of Information Act for all e-mails, text messages, and voicemails for key U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials. Our focus is on officials who have heavy hands in fracking and coal mining approvals in the American West, and our aim is to shine the brightest spotlight possible on their day-to-day communications and their management of American lands and resources.
It’s our first foray into directly seeking any and all communications records for federal officials, but it’s more than warranted. As we explained in our request for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s e-mails, text messages, and voicemails, we want to foster a more comprehensive public understanding of “how the Secretary of the Interior communicates, what the Secretary communicates about, and to whom the Secretary communicates.”
With Secretary Zinke and other Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management officials increasingly bending over backward to accommodate the demands of the fossil fuel industry, it’s more critical than ever for the American public to be aware of and informed about their communications, particularly with coal and oil and gas companies and their lobbyists.
In total, WildEarth Guardians submitted requests for communications records for 13 Interior and Bureau of Land Management officials, including:
- Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior
- Vincent DeVito, Counsel to the Secretary on Energy Policy
- Katharine MacGregor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Lands and Minerals
- Mike Nedd, Bureau of Land Management Acting Director
- John Ruhs, Bureau of Land Management Acting Deputy Director for Operations
- Lonny Bagley, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office Deputy Director
- Kent Walter, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office Acting Deputy Director and White River Field Office Manager
- Charlie Beecham, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office Solid Minerals Branch Chief
- Kent Hoffman, Bureau of Land Management Utah State Office Deputy Director
- Gary Torres, Bureau of Land Management Utah Green River District Manager
- Don Judice, Bureau of Land Management Montana State Office Deputy Director
- Duane Spencer, Bureau of Land Management Wyoming State Office Deputy Director
- Chris Hite, Bureau of Land Management Wyoming State Office Fluid Minerals Branch Chief
These requests are part of an ongoing and intensifying campaign by WildEarth Guardians to aggressively and relentlessly pursue transparency under President Trump. As we’ve explained before, we’re using the Freedom of Information Act and exercising our right to know what our government is doing and why, and to share that information with the public.
We’ve described it as our very own Climate and Energy Program Transparency Squad. And with our latest volley of Freedom of Information Act requests, we’re certainly showing that our Transparency Squad will not tolerate an ounce of secrecy when it comes to the operations of the Interior Department and its agencies.
If you haven’t yet, check out our online repository of Freedom of Information Act requests and responses. It’s still coming along, but for now, you can see where we’ve been focusing our transparency efforts and what records we’ve been obtaining. Our goal is to ensure that information we request is 100% available to the public and used to ensure government accountability and citizen empowerment.
Transparency and a healthy democracy go hand and hand. For our American way of life, we hope the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management will protect our right to know and openly share their communications.
Stay tuned for more Transparency Squad updates from WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program!