The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-9 along party lines today to confirm Daniel Jorjani, a controversial former key employee for the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, to the Interior Department’s top legal post. While serving as the department’s ‘acting’ solicitor, Jorjani has issued several legal decisions benefitting special interests, fostering the culture of corruption promulgated by President Trump’s political appointees at Interior, including Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
In response to the committee’s vote, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger issued the following statement:
“A majority of Senators continue to toe the special interest line by voting for conflicted political nominees whose views are the antithesis of what’s needed to protect our outdoor heritage. Daniel Jorjani is nothing more than Bernhardt’s swamp creature mini-me.”
Jorjani has been the architect of some of the department’s most controversial decisions that have benefited industry and special interests and has been leading the department’s efforts to limit transparency. Jorjani once said that ‘at the end of the day our job is to protect the Secretary.’
A full profile and background of Daniel Jorjani is available at the Western Values Project Department of Influence website.
Political Review of Public Document Requests:
Emails obtained by WVP revealed that the Interior Department and all subdepartments are now subject to a ‘next level’ FOIA review by the Solicitor’s Office since Jorjani was installed, and the review appears to be contributing to the backlog.
Thwarting Transparency and Restricting Public Records:
Jorjani is leading Interior’s efforts to thwart transparency by restricting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Shortly before former Secretary Zinke resigned, he tasked Jorjani with overseeing the agency’s FOIA office. Rule revisions crafted by Jorjani were published in the Federal Register during the historic government shutdown.
The proposed rule, if approved, would severely restrict public records requests by allowing the agency to deny requests that it deems ‘burdensome’ or ‘vague.’
Twin Metals on Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Border:
Jorjani issued a 19-page decision that reversed a previous departmental ruling that renewed copper and nickel mining leases for Twin Metals, a Chilean mining company, on the border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the most visited wilderness area in America.
The foreign mining company’s parent company, Antofagasta, is owned by billionaire Andrónico Luksic’s family, who happens to rent a home to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in Washington. Jorjani met with Antofagasta and the lobbying firm that represents Twin Metals in 2017 prior to issuing the favorable decision.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act:
Back in December 2017, Acting Solicitor Jorjani issued a new legal opinion reinterpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Under his new favorable interpretation, oil, gas, and other industries would now go unpunished for the incidental killing of birds. After an analysis of internal departmental documents and emails, it appears industry may have been involved or at least was aware the new opinion was forthcoming.
Jorjani’s emails reported on by Reveal News also found that the nominee had included then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt in the process ‘since Day 1.’ The new interpretation would ostensibly benefit many of Bernhardt’s former oil and gas and extractive industry clients.