Interior Reorganizing to Better Quash Dissent

May 16, 2019

2018 Highlights

Dear PEER Members,

The Department of the Interior is amidst an expensive reorganization that it has yet to justify. Congress has already given it $14 million, and the Trump administration is asking for nearly double that in the coming fiscal year.

It is unclear whether Congress will approve that new, larger installment because Interior has yet to explain why it is needed or what it will accomplish. That reticence, I believe, is because Interior does not want to disclose its real motive.

The plan would blend all the Interior departments into 12 consolidated regions, each headed by a Senior Executive (a super-grade slot under the Senior Executive Service or SES). As conceived by former Secretary Ryan Zinke, Interior would be modeled on the Pentagon with a unitary executive commanding all operations. The plan bears the motto “One Interior.”

The problem is that there is no One Interior.  There are different bureaus with different missions that sometimes conflict.  A unitary command would prevent these conflicts from surfacing, thus—

  • National Park Service concerns about mining operations being permitted on the doorsteps of major parks would not reach the stage of formal protest;
  • U.S. Geological Survey scientific research reflecting badly on Interior “Energy Dominance” projects could be deep-sixed; and
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife findings about adverse effects on threatened and endangered species would not see the light of day.

Moreover, SES-ers can and have been moved at a moment’s notice, denoting that we can expect little independence or backbone from Trump-approved regional managers.

Not that David Bernhardt, the current Secretary, is waiting for a reorganization to “big foot” decisions so that pesky agency legal objections disappear. Rest assured, you can make your objections known here.

We hope to count on your support as soldier on. 


Tim Whitehouse
Executive Director

PEER Client is Honored with First Amendment Award

George Luber, Ph.D., was in Washington, D.C. yesterday to receive the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation’s First Amendment Award. The awards honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans. PEER represents Dr. Luber from action taken against him by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when he resisted efforts to eliminate the climate program and health programs independence. Dr. Luber is CDC scientist specializing in the public health implications of climate change and a lead author for both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report and the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessments' Chapter on Human Health.  We will be sending you a climate alert early next week with more information on why we need to resist the Trump Administration’s climate opportunism.

EPA's Tepid Response to PFAS Poisoning

The EPA is showing little urgency to address the rapidly escalating health crisis caused by drinking water contaminated with toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS. On the heels of EPA’s release of a tepid set of recommendations for cleaning up groundwater contaminated with two types of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS, a new report from Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group finds that around 19 million people are served by drinking water sources contaminated with PFAS.  PEER will be commenting on EPA’s recommendations and is ramping up for a full campaign to make sure EPA responds appropriately to this crisis.

Battling the FWS Over GMO's and Insecticides

PEER is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to disclose records on why the FWS rescinded its ban on the use of genetically modified crops and neonicotinoid insecticides in National Wildlife Refuges. Genetically modified crops and “neonics” can wreak havoc on Refuge wildlife, soil, and waters.  That PEER needs to resort to a lawsuit is no surprise – after all, PEER revealed that a former Monsanto executive serving as a political appointee within the U.S. Department of the Interior used her position to further the agrochemical giant’s agenda on genetically modified crops and neonics.

Decreased Grazing Fees Hurt Public Lands

With federal grazing fee for livestock grazing on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest Service grazing allotments at their lowest legal limit of $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM), PEER is continuing to wait for the agencies produce records justifying the decrease. These ultra-low grazing fees encourage more abuse of public rangelands and require that federal land managers sacrifice the health of public lands for the commercial benefit of livestock operators.


A Bad Faith Attempt in DC City Council

After a public outcry from PEER and other groups, the D.C. City Council dropped a “technical amendment” to the District’s FOIA law, introduced by City Councilman Phil Mendelson. PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell called this amendment a "bad faith attempt to close public access to embarrassing government secrets.” PEER’s letter to the City Council emphasizes that the District has thus far defied the Trump Administration’s unreasonable demands to accommodate the President’s totalitarian tendencies, but this Amendment was a step in the wrong direction.