Drill ban details being examined

11 07, 2012 by Tri-Parish Times

David Vitter is among three U.S. senators behind an investigation of acting Department of Interior Inspector General Mary Kendall.

Vitter (R-La.) confirmed Friday, that he along with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) presented information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Council of Inspectors General Integrity Committee revealing a possible whitewashing of information. The alleged cover-up, they said, resulted in an offshore drilling moratorium following the BP oil spill of April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The moratorium crushed thousands of jobs – many of which Louisiana is still suffering from – and it’s pretty outrageous and offensive to know that policies were more of an influence than sound science,” Vitter said in an official statement.

According to Vitter, Kendall is accused of having blocked a full investigation into alleged manipulation of data in a National Academy of Engineers report by the White House and senior Interior Department officials.

Vitter and others believe Kendall intentionally avoided slamming Interior Department interests and slanted reports to appeal to the Obama Administration. The result was a six-month drilling moratorium that was based on claims supposedly made by “outside experts.”

USA Today first reported in May that Kendall was called on to investigate documents after the White House edited a report to suggest that deepwater engineers agreed with the moratorium. Kendall allegedly worked with the White House and edited reports to the administration’s satisfaction. Kendall denied wrongdoing and having participated in modifying any documents.

Vitter said Kendall failed “to ensure an independent, impartial and complete investigation.”

A survey conducted among Interior Department workers, and backed by the trio of senators, found approximately 15 percent of employees believed the inspector general’s office did not conduct its work in an independent manner and had “not been forthright with Congress.”

A telephone call to Vitter’s office Friday found claims that 40 percent of Interior Department employees believe Kendall had been influenced to present findings that complied White House interests related to the BP oil spill.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a report addressing questions surrounding Kendall that her alleged acts appear tainted with self-interest.

“As acting IG, Mary Kendall’s tenure depends upon pleasing the very people she is supposed to investigate,” Ruch said in a printed statement. “As a result, this watchdog is not just on a very tight leash, it is on a choke chain. To be effective and remain independent, an IG must be willing on a daily basis to get canned or resign is a mission is compromised.”

“When there is widespread distrust within the organization in charge of investigating inappropriate political influence, we’re looking at a huge problem,” Vitter said. “It is my hope that the ongoing investigation can help us get to the bottom of this political cover-up.”