U.S. Sen. David Vitter today in a letter blasted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich for misleading the public about the number of offshore drilling permits pending approval by Bromwich's agency. In a court filing last week, the Department of Justice stated that there are far more permits awaiting approval than Salazar or Bromwich have led Vitter and the public to believe.
"Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action," Vitter wrote in the letter. "It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be "too few permits' awaiting review, and simultaneously "too many' permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic."
Vitter's letter noted that Salazar recently testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that Interior has received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the past nine months and that only seven deepwater permit applications are pending; similarly, Bromwich recently told Vitter that only six deepwater permits applications are pending and publicly stated that deepwater permit approvals will be limited because "only a handful of completed applications have been received."
However, in a motion filing last week seeking a stay of federal judge Martin Feldman's two recent orders directing BOEMRE to issue at least seven permits, the DOJ warned of harm from "re-prioritization [resulting] from the court's orders" because there are actually 270 shallow water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.
"I'm afraid that this clear discrepancy between the DOJ filing and the department's public statements shows that Interior will pursue its political agenda at any cost," Vitter said.
The full text of Vitter's letter is below. A photo of Vitter's February meeting with Bromwich in Vitter's office is attached.
March 16, 2011
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL AND FACSIMILE
IMMEDIATE ATTENTION REQUESTED
Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Director Michael Bromwich
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement
1849 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar and Director Bromwich:
I write to express my deep frustration with the public and private misrepresentation of how many drilling permits are pending before the agency. It is completely inexcusable for the information that both of you have provided to be so completely inconsistent with that of Department of Justice's (DOJ's) court filing last week.
Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action. Specifically: Secretary Salazar's testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago stating that the administration has received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the past nine months, and that only 7 deepwater permit applications are pending; Mr. Bromwich personally stating to me that only 6 deepwater permits applications are pending; and Mr. Bromwich's public statement that deepwater permit approvals will be limited because "only a handful of completed applications have been received."
Your statements are completely inconsistent with the DOJ's motion filing last week for a stay of Judge Martin Feldman's rulings. On page 11 of that filing, the DOJ notes that there is potential harm in the "re-prioritization that results from the court's orders" to issue seven permits in Feldman's February and March orders. DOJ explains that this is because there are 270 shallow water permit applications pending, and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.
It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be "too few permits' awaiting review, and simultaneously "too many' permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic.
I would like to remind you of your responsibility as agency officials under the Information Quality Act (IQA). Section 515 of the IQA directs federal agencies to maximize "the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity" of information they prepare and disseminate and it requires agencies to adopt and follow implementing guidelines. The OMB guidelines note the IQA applies to the "creation, collection, maintenance, and dissemination of information." The basic standard of care is that information must be "accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased." Stricter and even more rigorous quality standards apply when the information is "influential," meaning it will "have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies ."
It is important for the information you provide to elected officials and the public to meet basic legal and ethical guidelines required of federal agency officials. Disseminating false or misleading information impedes the credibility of BOEMRE and has a profound and direct impact on the people of Louisiana.
Cc: Judge Martin Feldman