It’s amazing what we learn when sunlight shines on the darkest corners of government. In a statement released today Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), we learn that PEER has received a flow of internal e-mails from scientists at the Department of the Interior that undermine the legality of its aggressive offshore oil and gas lease sales in federal Arctic waters. The e-mails make the case that the Bush administration did not adequately consider environmental risks prior to offering tracts in Alaskan waters as it is required to do by law.
PEER has released the emails to the public over the past several weeks, prompting two lawsuits to be filed against the administration. Native tribes and conservation groups are suing the Department of Interior for not fulfilling its legal obligation to consider environmental concerns when deciding the fate of such a development. Another suit charges the administration withheld public documents relating to the oil leases in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Thanks to the courageous whistleblowers at Interior and the work of PEER we are getting an unusually graphic view of what happens when government operates in the dark.