Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Interior Department Fights Off Calls for Transparency on Drilling Moratorium

Wasn't the Obama administration suppose to be the most transparent administration ever? That is what Barack Obama told us as he entered the Oval Office. So, why won't his Interior Department cooperate with the House Natural Resources Committee and provide documents on the recommendations of the scientists who studied if there was a need for a deep water oil drilling moratorium?

The Department has also intervened to block the Inspector General from providing 13 separate documents and these are being withheld and not provided.

“The Department has actively prevented the OIG from providing documents to us,” write Hastings and Lamborn in today’s letter. “We have difficulty understanding the Department’s concern about releasing these OIG documents, other than the fact some of them discuss communications between Department officials and White House staff. That alone is an insufficient excuse for withholding the OIG documents from the Committee.”

We reflect back to the scandal that involved the recommendations of the scientists who, in fact, didn't see the need for the drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. Secretary Salazar, however, hell bent to destroy the oil and gas drilling industry in our country, overlooked that decision and submitted documents that were in favor of the moratorium. Salazar had to be told by a federal judge that his moratorium was illegal. Salazar ignored the federal judge and had to be told a second time to remove the moratorium.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings is calling one last time for transparency.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) and Energy and Mineral Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) sent a letter today to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to demand compliance with document requests regarding alterations to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) 30-Day Safety Report that recommended imposing a six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon incident.

The 30-Day Safety Report was altered to include a deep water moratorium after seven noted engineering and safety experts from the National Academy of Engineering peer-reviewed the document. In response to the Administration’s misrepresentation of their views, the scientists made it clear that a deep water moratorium “will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation's economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill.”

“The Obama Administration’s six-month offshore drilling moratorium resulted in thousands of lost jobs, economic harm across the Gulf of Mexico, and rigs leaving the United States for foreign waters,” said Chairman Doc Hastings. “Americans, especially those in the Gulf, deserve answers as to how these policy decisions were made, who made them and if they were actually based on sound science.”

The fact is this - the safety record for offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a good one with no major spills before the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. After the tragic events of that day, inspections were conducted on all oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico drilling in deep waters. None were found in violation of anything of note. The moratorium was purely a politically motivated ideological move. It needlessly cost a lot of jobs for no reason.

Chairman Hastings has the option of issuing a subpoena.

Under House and Committee rules, the full Committee or a Subcommittee may authorize and issue a subpoena to compel the appearance of witnesses or to provide documents. A subpoena may be authorized and issued upon either a majority vote of the Committee or Subcommittee, or upon approval of the Chairman during any period when the House has adjourned for more than three days.

I hope he does. It is well past time to finish this investigation and let those in error be held responsible.

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