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 deepwater 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 deepwater 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."
Following calls from Chairman Hastings and other Natural Resources Committee Republicans, an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation was conducted and concluded, "the White House edits of the original draft DOI Executive Summary led to the implication that the moratorium has been peer reviewed by the experts." However, the IG report raised more questions, such as who at the White House actually rewrote the Interior Department document.
Since Chairman Hastings and Chairman Lamborn sent their first request letter on April 25, 2011, and despite multiple additional letters, the Department has provided only a limited number of documents responsive to the request that were not already disclosed by the OIG.
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."
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.