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Monday
Apr092012

Lies and Moratoriums 

Source: istockphoto

The truth will out.  Sometimes it just takes a while.

For nearly two years, the United States Department of the Interior has been withholding crucial information regarding the drilling moratorium it imposed in the wake of the April 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  This week, we may finally have some answers thanks to a subpoena from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources and its chairman, Doc Hastings (R-WA).

A little background: 

Shortly after the April 2010 BP oil spill, President Barack Obama directed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to publish a report about improved safety measures needed for oil drilling in the Gulf.  The report recommended a six-month drilling moratorium.  The Interior Department report was falsely presented as having been peer reviewed by seven members of the National Academy of Engineering – giving the impression that the moratorium was based on science.  It was not. 

Obama Administration officials doctored the report. 

As I noted in November 2010, White House officials altered the report because “the Interior Department’s outside experts didn’t agree with the White House’s pre-ordained conclusion [to impose a drilling moratorium].”  Politico reported that: 

The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior.  The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium.

I previously wrote about the moratorium scandal here, here, here and here.  

Since April 2011, the House Natural Resources Committee has been investigating the actions of the Interior Department and the Obama Administration.  After repeated requests for information, last Tuesday, the Committee sent a subpoena that directed the Interior Department to furnish previously undisclosed documents that will hopefully fully explain who altered the Gulf drilling moratorium, who knew about it and why it happened.  

Committee Chairman Hastings said: 

President Obama pledged unprecedented transparency and it’s regrettable that a Congressional subpoena is necessary to obtain documents pertaining to the Administration’s report that recommended a six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.  The report falsely stated the professional views of independent engineers and the moratorium directly caused thousands of lost jobs, economic pain throughout the Gulf region, and a decline in American energy production.  It’s important to clearly understand exactly how this happened.

I thought this might happen.  Following the 2010 midterm elections, I suggested Congress may want to use its subpoena power to shed light on the moratorium, saying: 

[T]he new House leadership may be interested in issuing a subpoena or two (or more) about this apparent Obama Administration deceit.

Now that Congress has taken my advice, hopefully the truth of what happened between bureaucrats at the Interior Department and their bosses in the Obama White House will out. 

But then again, don’t underestimate the Obama Administration’s aversion to honesty and transparency.  

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