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AG Derek Schmidt leads legal support for Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore

Release Date: May 21, 2021

TOPEKA – (May 21, 2021) – The Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore cannot lawfully be blocked by a federal agency’s “erratic decision-making” and arbitrary reversal of its prior support, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has told a federal court.

Schmidt today led a coalition of 17 state attorneys general in filing a brief in the U.S. District Court for South Dakota in support of a lawsuit brought by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem against the U.S. Department of Interior. The lawsuit asks the court to block the federal agency’s decision to deny a permit for fireworks on July 3 and instead to order the agency to issue a permit expeditiously.

“Given the importance of the Fourth of July holiday and the special role of Mount Rushmore as a national monument, amici States have an interest in seeing the fireworks display take place again this year,” Schmidt and the other attorneys general wrote. “But in rejecting South Dakota’s permit, the Department of the Interior offered only the flimsiest of rationales, unsupported by any evidence or reasoned explanation.”

In denying South Dakota’s permit earlier this year the Department of Interior raised concerns about crowds at the event during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the environmental impact of the fireworks on water quality and fire risk. But the attorneys general counter that the pandemic was a greater concern last year before there was a vaccine – and yet the department granted a permit then and determined there was no significant adverse environmental effect.

Schmidt said the federal government’s reversal of position appeared nothing more than partisan politics since the Biden Administration has replaced the Trump Administration.

“States have a right to expect that the Department of the Interior’s permitting decisions will be reasoned and supported by the evidence, particularly when those decisions infringe on our national traditions,” Schmidt and the attorneys general wrote in the brief. 

The attorneys general observe that fireworks displays have been a part of the nation’s traditional celebrations of its independence since 1777 and that Mount Rushmore, with its likenesses of U.S. presidents, is a particularly powerful symbol on the nation’s Independence Day.

A copy of the brief can be found at https://bit.ly/3bHqGB9.

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