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Every day seems to bring a new revelation about just how sneaky and un-transparent this administration’s agency heads are. Since EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has become the new poster boy for scandals and federal investigations. In yesterday’s Washington Post, it has been revealed that “Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments”, sought out evidence to support the administration’s case for unraveling national monuments for timber and minerals extraction and dismissed or deleted evidence that public sites “boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries.”
This is definitely going on the Less Access to Less Information page!
…thousands of pages of email correspondence [obtained through FOIA] chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated national monuments.
…The new documents show that as Zinke conducted his four-month review, Interior officials rejected material that would justify keeping protections in place and sought out evidence that could buttress the case for unraveling them.
… [the] redactions came to light because Interior’s FOIA office sent documents to journalists and advocacy groups on July 16 that it later removed online.
“It appears that we inadvertently posted an incorrect version of the files for the most recent National Monuments production,” officials wrote July 17. “We are requesting that if you downloaded the files already to please delete those versions.”
…The inadvertently released documents show that department officials dismissed some evidence that contradicted the administration’s push to revise national monument designations, which are made under the 1906 American Antiquities Act. Estimates of increased tourism revenue, analyses showing that existing restrictions had not hurt fishing operators and agency reports finding that less vandalism occurred as a result of monument designations were all set aside.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) reports that the U.S. will no longer seek validation by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global anti-corruption effort to bring openness and accountability to the oil, gas and mining sectors.
- Administration Sounds Death Knell for Transparency Initiative, by Mia Steinle POGO press release (March 17, 2017).
A Department of the Interior official confirmed in a March 9 phone call that the United States is withdrawing its efforts to be validated under the EITI Standard. The standard requires companies and governments to disclose the payments they make and receive for extracting oil, gas and minerals. The goal of the initiative is to ensure citizens and governments are getting their fair share of revenues from natural resource extraction.
Under the Standard governments disclose how much they receive from extractive companies operating in their country and these companies disclose how much they pay. Governments sign up to implement the EITI Standard and must meet seven requirements. Then a Validator commissioned by the EITI International Secretariat assesses whether or not the country successfully implemented the EITI Standard.
The U.S. committed to join EITI in 2011 with the goal of ensuring that taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for extraction of natural resources. The United States had been working towards complying with the standard since 2012. The U.S. formally became an EITI candidate in 2014 when the EITI International Board approved USEITI’s candidacy application.
The website of the U.S. EITI is still available, but it appears no new information has been added to it since the inauguration. Its 2016 report is still available online. The only tweet from @useiti_doi since the inauguration has been one welcoming the new Department of the Interior Secretary.