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Ellen Paul

Nomination of DOI attorney who crippled MBTA in jeopardy

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This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council.

 

Among the many "actings" and "special appoinments" running the government these days is one Dan Jorjani, who was nominated to officially take over as solicitor for the department. Since being named "principal deputy solicitor" at the beginning of this Administration, Jorjani has been functioning as the de facto solicitor as the Administration chose not to nominate anyone for this Senate-confirmed position until April 2019, when Jorjani was formally nominated.

Jorjani has been a busy boy, doing the Administration's dirty work. For ornithologists, the most despicable of his acts was the nearly immediate revocation of an M-Opinion issued at the 11th hour of the Obama administration by former solicitor Hillary Tompkins. Her M-Opinion stated unequivocally that the MBTA does cover incidental take. A few weeks after revoking that M-Opinion, Jorjani issued a new M-Opinion stating that the MBTA does NOT cover incidental take. That M-Opinion is now the subject of litigation in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York.

The nomination, which has been widely and strongly opposed by numerous conservation organizations, has now been placed on hold by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden is seeking to block the nomination and calling for an investigation after the nominee appeared to lie to lawmakers during during his confirmation hearing about the department's public records policy. The stated objection concerns a claim by Jorjani that although he is officially responsible for implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and responsible for a new policy that limits FOIA requests, he is not responsible for oversight or implementation of the Department's FOIA decisions.

Some of Jorjani's other destructive policies are outlined by the National Parks and Conservation Association.

Of course, even if Jorjani's nomination fails, these policies - including the MBTA policy - are unlikely to change unless the Courts act or unless .... 2020. The reality is that he can remain as principal deputy secretary, a position that does not require Senate confirmation, or the Administration can nominate someone else who will, of course, simply continue to work in opposition to DOI's mission and purpose.

 

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