Drilling moratorium hearing postponed

07 25, 2012 by The Advocate

The Republican-controlled House Natural Resources Committee indefinitely postponed a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on the 2010 Gulf drilling moratorium after the federal Interior Department would not force current and former employees to testify.

Congressional members of the committee were planning to question Interior employees about the justifications for the moratorium that came in the wake of the BP oil leak disaster that killed 11 men and resulted in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and along Louisiana’s coast.

The House committee and its chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., have issued multiple subpoenas seeking internal records concerning the development of a report that served as the justification of the offshore drilling moratorium.

The 2010 draft report initially stated that some experts were cited as favoring the moratorium, which was not true. The administration blamed it on an inadvertent error in the editing process that was corrected and the Interior’s inspector general agreed the mistake was accidental.

The department has given thousands of documents to the Natural Resources Committee, but not all of the specific emails requested.

“There is a clear pattern of actions by the Interior Department to withhold information and answers on the administration’s falsely edited report and decision to impose a Gulf drilling moratorium that cost thousands of jobs, inflicted widespread economic harm and restricted American energy production,” Hastings said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

“The department is refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents and now they refuse to make key individuals in the department available for on-the-record questioning. This investigative hearing will happen and will be rescheduled to ensure cooperation.”

Hastings said he expected the rescheduled hearing to occur in September after the August congressional recess.

The Interior Department did not respond to a request for a response and the White House deferred to the Interior Department.

In the upper chamber, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has helped lead a push for the Interior Department’s inspector general to be investigated for an alleged bias.