On Thursday, American Oversight sued the Department of the Interior for the communications of Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani as well as William Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management.
Jorjani, a former adviser to Charles and David Koch, first joined the administration in 2017 as the department’s principal deputy solicitor. In that role, he drew criticism for having told employees that their “job was to protect” the beleaguered then-Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in late 2018 leaving a trail of ethics scandals and federal investigations in his wake. Jorjani was confirmed as solicitor in September 2019.
Pendley, a notorious opponent of public lands, came to the administration after decades spent working on behalf of fossil fuel and mining industries seeking to use public lands for extractive purposes. Under Pendley, BLM’s headquarters were relocated to Grand Junction, Colo., where the agency shares a building with Chevron and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
In September, American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Pendley’s calendars, external communications and ethics waivers or authorizations. And in January, we filed a request for Jorjani’s emails with groups like the American Enterprise Institute, Exxon Mobil and various groups connected to the Koch brothers. The Interior Department’s failure to provide records in response to these requests led to Thursday’s lawsuit, which seeks information about how energy industry interests may have influenced federal policy.