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Dakota pipeline protest

The Army Corps Decision on Dakota has serious ramifications

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday it would approve development of the last section of the Dakota pipeline. In a cryptic letter, the Corps announced it was terminating the Environmental Impact Statement process in the Federal Register. The reason? Trump told them to do so.

As former State Department lawyer Keith Benes said to the Washington Post, the Corps can’t just drop the EIS process for arbitrary reasons. And Trump demanding they do is an arbitrary reason.

Keith Benes, a former State Department lawyer who helped oversee pipeline permitting decisions under the Obama administration and now works as an environmental consultant, said in an interview that opponents could mount a strong legal challenge because the only justification the Army gave for terminating its environmental review was the president’s Jan. 24 directive. The agency had been seeking public input on whether to consider an alternate pipeline route, and the comment period was due to close Feb. 20.

“Supreme Court precedent is really clear that agencies can change their minds about policies, but they need to provide a reason,” Benes said, noting that the justices most recently upheld this position in the 2009 case FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. “The president telling you to change your mind is not enough of a justification for changing your factual finding.”

The Corps decision was sudden and unexpected. The Corps had already filed a notice to the Federal Register asking for comments about the EIS scope, the first step in the process. Until this week, there was absolutely no indication that the Corps was planning on terminating the EIS.

Trump’s administration has completely disregarded environmental law, not to mention tribal rights and treaty in this decision. Yes, the decision can and will be successfully challenged in court. But there’s more at risk than our water with this decision.

All Federal Agencies are bound to follow laws in their actions. One of the laws is the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. Though agencies can follow different routes within the NEPA framework, they can’t work outside of it. Not unless expressly given permission to with other laws. There is no other law at play with the Corps Dakota Pipeline decision.

The Army Corps not only dropkicked NEPA to the curb, they pissed on it in passing. And they did so specifically because of a demand from the Trump administration. The Trump administration action demonstrates either a profound ignorance of a law that has been in existence for decades, or that the administration considers itself not bound by the law. I suspect the latter.

The Executive Branch of the government’s primary duty is to uphold the laws of the United States. Trump cannot just ignore the laws because they don’t suit him. To do so is to introduce a level of chaos we have never seen before in our history.

Photo courtesy Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0

Top part of an inspection report

USDA APHIS Inspection Reports posted online

The Memory Hole just posted links to thousands of inspection reports. They’re research facility inspections for 2000 through 2007.

Trump and his minions just don’t understand the way the internet works. If they build a wall, we’ll put a hole into it.

Guaranteed.

When I get any new info from the FOIA request or HSUS’s action, I’ll post an update. If I find more documents, I’ll post a link to this post.

 

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HSUS comes through on the USDA APHIS records

Today, HSUS filed a Notice of Violation of Court Order with the Department of Justice because of the USDA pulling the APHIS records.

I did not know that the HSUS had filed a lawsuit years ago forcing the USDA to provide access to its inspection records for universities and research labs. By pulling these records, the USDA is in violation of the court settlement.

As noted in the letter, pulling these records also runs counter to government transparency requirements established by Congress. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the impetus for this action was the short-sighted, mean-spirited actions of Trump’s transition team.

In addition, the HSUS noted in its story on the filing that the USDA finally did pull the license of several breeders in Missouri…including Rabbit Ridge. Rabbit Ridge is finally done.

The Humane Society is one of the groups we need to donate to, to protect animals and the environment during a Trump administration.

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USDA APHIS Follow Up

Delcianna Winders posted a folder containing several USDA APHIS enforcement actions. I was surprised to see an enforcement action against Donald Schrage of the infamous Rabbit Ridge kennel.

The violations listed in the enforcement action aren’t unusual for Schrage. This is just a normal year’s worth of writeups for him. It’s good to see that the USDA finally yanked his chain. I’ll be filing a FOIA to find out what happened in this case, and if he’s still licensed. Normally, a quick visit to a web site and a bit of search would have returned the information. Not anymore.

After writing yesterday’s post, I’m less sure that the Farmer’s Bureau et al court case triggered the USDA APHIS to pull the AWA database. The USDA APHIS just invested in a new system that was only rolled out in August. They have been redacting private information from the inspection reports. They could continue and upload new inspection reports as they finish.

This action has Trump written all over it. Trump had appointed Brian Klippenstein to his agriculture transition team. Klippenstein is a compatriot of Forrest Lucas, who funded the effort to gut Proposition B, the anti-puppy mill bill, in Missouri. As of January 17, Klippenstein was the only person on Trump’s transition team for the Department of Agriculture.

I’m anxious to read the documents turned up by  Delcianna’s FOIA request for communications related to this decision.

 

Top part of an inspection report

USDA APHIS Pulls Access to Essential Inspection Database

For many years I and many others have had free and open access to USDA APHIS Animal Welfare Act inspection reports. The Humane Society of the US uses the data to compile its list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the United States. I’ve used the records to highlight the atrocities of one of the worst puppy millers in the US: Donald Schrage’s Rabbit Ridge Kennel.

Yesterday, without any warning, the USDA pulled down the database. In its place is a message that says, in part:

APHIS, during the past year, has conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the general public to view.  As a result of the comprehensive review, APHIS has implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.  Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication.  APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.

During the past year…

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