Congress asks the Interior Department for documents explaining a mining decision. The Interior responds with 66,000 pages of gibberish.

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

The U.S. Department of the Interior secretary's first hearing with the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee was a doozy. Democratic committee members questioned David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist, about a batch of documents they had requested on the topic of mining leases near the Boundary Water Wilderness in Minnesota. Turns out, most of the 66,000 pages sent over by Bernhardt’s agency were either already public, duplicates, heavily redacted, or consisted of illegible symbols. With no hint of irony, Bernhardt defended himself by noting that this is common in civil litigation. (Yes, David, that’s the point.) As the committee later states on Twitter, these so-called document dumps are often used as corporate obfuscation tactics. 

In another cringe-worthy moment, Pennsylvania congressman Matt Cartwright asked Bernhardt if he was disturbed by the news that the atmosphere’s average concentration of carbon dioxide has surpassed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history). Bernhardt quipped back: “I haven’t lost any sleep over it.” Well, that makes one of us. 

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