Proposed Rule Aims To Curb Public Records Requests As Demand For Documents Increases

as published on Wyoming Public Media

“This appears to be a regulation to figure out some sort of way they can shirk their statutory responsibilities…”

A new rule proposed last week by the U.S. Interior Department could make it harder for news outlets and non-profit organizations to get public information on a range of federal issues.

Once adopted, the regulations would allow the agency to put a cap on the number of Freedom of Information Act requests it processes every month. The proposed rule, which was posted on Dec. 28 in the Federal Register, would also make it tougher for those requests to be filled out quickly for breaking news stories.

“This appears to be a regulation to figure out some sort of way they can shirk their statutory responsibilities,” Jeff Ruch, executive director for the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said.

The Interior Department manages one-fifth of all lands in the United States, as well as the wealth of oil, gas and minerals that lay beneath it. Under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the agency shrunk national monument protections and opened up millions of acres to more energy development. But he resigned late last month amidst ethical investigations which were spurred, in part, by public records requests.

Ruch said he is suspicious of the Department’s motives behind the rule change — if it really wanted to reduce its workload, it could start by making documents and memorandums more easily available to the public.

In its proposed rule, the Interior Department argued the new regulations would help the agency tackle a growing number of Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists and advocacy organizations.

Such requests have increased by 30 percent since President Trump took office, according to the agency.

The rule was proposed by the Interior Department’s top lawyer, Daniel Jorjani, who recently and controversially took charge of handling public records requests there.

The 30-day public comment period on the FOIA proposal ends Jan. 28.

7 replies »

  1. No way will we let them do this! Maybe we need to make it a law and NOT a regulation. Again public lands are just that! Public lands that belong to all of us. And not the special interests groups. I will send a comment and contact my Congressional members!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. While federal workers go without pay, senior Trump administration officials are poised to get $10,000 raises
    While hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and the government is partially shut down, scores of senior Trump political appointees are poised to receive annual raises of about $10,000 a year.
    The pay increases for Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators and even Vice President Pence are scheduled to go into effect Saturday without legislation to stop them, according to documents issued by the Office of Personnel Management and experts in federal pay.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tell the Army Corps: Don’t shut out public comment on the massive Line 3 dirty tar sands pipeline.
    Over the holidays and during a government shutdown, the Army Corps of Engineers sneakily began a 30-day comment period on a Clean Water Act permit that the Canadian tar sands corporation Enbridge needs in order to build its massive Line 3 pipeline. Tell the Army Corps that the public needs more time to make its voice heard on a project that could affect our planet for generations to come.

    Submit Your Comment

    We’re making progress in the fight to stop the massive Line 3 tar sands pipeline, but the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to fast track a permit for the $2.9 billion dollar project without giving the public enough time to weigh in.

    Tell the Army Corps: We need more time for public comment on the massive Line 3 dirty tar sands pipeline.

    After almost 30,000 of us called on outgoing Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to #StopLine3, the Minnesota Department of Commerce did something almost unprecedented, formally appealing another state government agency’s approval of the dirty tar sands Line 3 pipeline. This is a big win, but the fight is far from over.

    While the federal government fought over a shutdown and many of us were enjoying time with our families over the holidays, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quietly announced it would be accepting public comment for 30 days on a Clean Water Act permit Enbridge needs to build Line 3.

    This massive project could affect our planet for generations to come, but this is one of the only opportunities for all of us to officially weigh in, and the Trump administration is trying to shut the public out by rushing through this comment period.

    Tell the Army Corps: extend the deadline for public comment on the massive Line 3 dirty tar sands pipeline.

    Line 3 would transport 760,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil through our communities every day. It would cross the Mississippi River, northern Minnesota lake country, pristine wild rice lakes, the Lake Superior watershed, Chippewa National Forest, and the Fond du Lac reservation — home to the Ojibwe people who have lived in the Great Lakes region since before 800 A.D.

    Enbridge, the Canadian company pushing Line 3, has a terrible track record of devastating pipeline spills. Between 1999 and 2010, it was responsible for more than 800 pipeline spills, including the Kalamazoo River disaster which saw 843,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude dumped into Michigan’s waterways — costing more than a billion dollars in cleanup costs and making local residents sick. For a massive project like this where so much is at risk, we need more time for public comment.

    Tell the Army Corp: extend the deadline for public comment on the dirty tar sands Line 3 pipeline.

    Thanks for all you do,

    Catherine Collentine
    Associate Director, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign
    Share this alert on Facebook
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    Liked by 2 people

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