For Immediate Release, September 24, 2019

Contact:

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

Senate Confirms Former Koch Crony as Interior Department’s Top Lawyer

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate today confirmed Daniel Jorjani as solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior, despite his deep-rooted conflicts of interest and strong ties to the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers. The final Senate vote, largely along party lines, was 51-43.

Since being named principal deputy solicitor in May 2017, Jorjani has personally authored numerous legal opinions defending some of the Interior Department’s most egregious decisions. Those include Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda to sell out public lands, the rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the elimination of protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

“Jorjani got this job despite a disturbing history of twisting our laws into pretzels to give the oil industry permission to kill wildlife and destroy our public lands,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s shameful that Senate Republicans keep confirming swamp monsters like Jorjani to key positions throughout the government. As solicitor he’ll continue to do lasting damage to this nation’s natural heritage.”

Jorjani’s opinion on implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act upended decades of enforcement of this important law for saving birds. His opinion eliminated protections for birds from “incidental killing,” including things like landing on oil drilling or mining waste ponds or getting electrocuted on or colliding with poorly designed utility lines.

“With a recent study finding there are 3 billion fewer birds in North America than 50 years ago, we need more protections for these animals that brighten our skies and sing to us in the morning,” said Hartl. “But instead Jorjani opened the floodgates to bird killing by the oil and gas industry and other campaign contributors of the Trump administration.”

Jorjani has served as Interior’s chief Freedom of Information Act officer since late 2018. The position was previously held by a career staffer within the Interior Department, but was then reassigned to Jorjani by disgraced former Secretary Ryan Zinke.

As solicitor Jorjani can illegally shield current Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and other Trump officials from public scrutiny and illegally delay the release of documents that are critical of the administration. Immediately after Jorjani was named chief FOIA officer, Interior proposed changing its FOIA regulations to undermine the Act and hinder public access to records on agency actions that hurt wildlife and public lands.

The Interior Department’s inspector general is currently investigating wither Jorjani gave false testimony regarding his role as chief FOIA officer before the Senate energy and environment committee.

“Jorjani is part of a pattern in which Interior is basically run by the Koch foundation for the benefit of the Koch foundation,” Hartl said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.