Arthur Dent Meets the US Department of the Interior

Secretary Kempthorne of the Department of the Interior's favourite scene from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where the official from the government explains how Arthur Dent had all the time in the world to view and comment on the plans for a bypass:

Official:"The plans have been available at the planning office for the last nine months"

Arthur Dent: On display? I had to go down to the cellar.
O: that's the display department.
A: with a torch!
O: the lights were probably out.
A: so were the stairs.
O: but you did see the notice, didn't you?
A: Oh yes, it was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying "beware of the leopard!" Ever thought about going into advertising?

This appears to be the model for the Department's Communication Strategy when it comes to the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.

In their rush to gut the Endangered Species Act before their term runs out, the Administration has published its required environmental assessment and limited review and comment to just ten days. Switchboard quotes:

This Federal Register notice advises the public that we (FWS and NOAA) have prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that assesses the potential environmental effects of the proposed regulatory changes currently under consideration. The Draft EA is available for public review at the following Web site: http://www.doi.gov/issues/esa.html.

Except when you go there, there is no there there, just a "myths and realities" explanation of why their comment process is perfectly acceptable and fair. Oh, and a link to an explanation of how one can comment. Not by fax, not by email, but by snail mail or in person, or through a convenient online system.

Except there is no link to the particular act, no way to really find it, no intuitive search, one could bicycle to Arlington and deliver your comment by hand before you would find anything on this website. Andrew Wetzler at NRDC concludes:

"So what we have is an absurdly short comment period (10 days!) that has already begun to run despite the fact that the Department hasn’t even posted the document it’s asking for comments on yet. But they have posted a defense of their proposed regulations that certainly makes it seem like the agency has already prejudged the merits of its proposal—precisely the thing that NEPA’s procedural protections are designed to avoid."

Even Douglas Adams himself could not write a script more silly and foolish than the one being acted out in Washington these days.

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Tags: Endangered Species

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