Washington, DC – Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Trump Administration for refusing to turn over public documents concerning a controversial water mining project in the Mojave Desert. The project is fast becoming a symbol of the Trump administration’s efforts to privatize public natural resources and the crony-capitalism that drives many of its decisions and policy.
“The Cadiz project stunk since the day it was proposed, but its stench has gotten so much worse since Trump came into power and Cadiz’s friends got power in the agencies that are supposed to regulate the company,” said Adam Keats, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety. “Nobody should be surprised that Trump is trying to hide the public records that might reveal his cozy relationship to this boondoggle. Fortunately, at least right now, he is not above the law.”
The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project seeks to mine ancient groundwater in the Mojave Desert for use hundreds of miles away in suburban subdivisions in Orange County. CFS has been fighting the project because of its privatization of scarce public natural resources and its environmental impacts to the fragile desert ecosystem. CFS litigated earlier local approvals in California state court.
Earlier this year, Trump’s Department of Interior withdrew a 2011 legal guidance document that had determined that Cadiz was required to obtain federal approval for a pipeline that it seeks to run adjacent to an existing but unused railroad right-of-way. The administration’s action was highly controversial, as Trump’s deputy secretary for the Interior Department, David Bernhardt, was a former lobbyist for Cadiz.
Center for Food Safety filed Freedom of Information Act requests in April 2017 for all public records related to the Cadiz project and to the decision by the administration to reverse its earlier position on the need for the company to seek federal permits. The administration gave only a cursory acknowledgement of one of the requests and has completely ignored the other. To date the agency has provided no documents.
More recently, the Trump administration reversed earlier federal agency decisions that required the Cadiz company to apply for authorization for a pipeline to transport the mined groundwater. Without having to obtain those permits, the company will not have to complete federal environmental review of the project’s environmental impacts.