WASHINGTON June 1, 2017 – The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today for public records of closed-door meetings between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, states and industry groups over weakening wetlands protections under the Clean Water Act.
President Trump directed the EPA to rewrite regulations determining whether wetlands are protected as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Trump’s executive order could potentially eliminate Clean Water Act protections for millions of acres of wetlands, which are critical to water purification, ecosystem health and habitat for hundreds of endangered species.
“The Clean Water Act is our most important safeguard for the health of the nation’s waters and wetlands, so the public has a right to know why Trump’s EPA is doing the bidding of special-interest polluters,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “It’s a sad irony that EPA’s response to concerns about closed-doored meetings has been to close its own doors and shut the public out.”
Executive Order 13778, signed by Trump Feb. 28, ordered the EPA to weaken protections for wetlands. The Center submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA in March, after press reports of closed-door meetings between the agency and industry representatives on how to soften regulatory safeguards for wetlands.
The Center’s suit also seeks records relating to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement in these new efforts to weaken protections for wetlands — which would directly affect his home state of Oklahoma — in potential violation of his ethics agreement. During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt promised to recuse himself from all litigation matters in which the state of Oklahoma is a party.
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Earlier this month the Center filed suit to force the EPA to make public Pruitt’s emails and schedule. Despite the routine nature of such a request, the agency illegally refused to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and continues to refuse to produce any records.
“Scott Pruitt is rapidly turning the EPA into the least transparent, least accountable agency in the federal government, just so he can protect the secrecy of special interests that are calling the shots,” said Hartl. “The agency’s refusal to release these public documents shows just how far this administration will go to put our environment and the health of ordinary Americans on the chopping block.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.