Three environmental groups are filing formal objections against the Trump administration’s decision to keep processing permits and taking other actions to further oil and natural gas drilling during the partial government shutdown.
WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity say the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is breaking the law by processing drilling applications and preparing for upcoming drilling rights lease sales on federal land.
In addition to violating a prohibition on spending money Congress hasn’t appropriated, the groups say that since the BLM cannot post information about the applications, the public cannot fully participate in the process through objections or other means.
“In short, it is impossible for the public to inspect or otherwise provide meaningful feedback on any pending [applications or environmental reviews] related to these applications,” the groups wrote in a formal filing Thursday with the BLM.
“Instead, the public is entirely locked out of the process,” they wrote.
The groups often fight individual drilling applications and lease sales, as well as larger efforts to increase drilling on federal land.
“It’s absolutely outrageous, not to mention illegal, that Trump is rolling out the red carpet for the oil and gas industry while the American people can’t even reach an agency staffer by phone,” Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement.
“We’ve been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it.”
Most of Interior has been shut down since congressional funding lapsed. But the Trump administration declared that staff processing drilling applications and preparing for future lease sales can keep working because they have funding.