White House Doctored Offshore Drilling Report

The Obama Administration is guilty of misleading the public when implementing a moratorium on offshore drilling, according to a new finding.

The Office of Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has issued a report at the request of Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee (and others) seeking an inquiry into  misrepresentations made by the Obama administration when shutting down all offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP spill.

A DOI 30-Day Safety Report to the President stated that seven expert engineers from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) first peer-reviewed then signed off on a recommendation for the six-month drilling moratorium.  (You can find more on the Safety Report wording misrepresentations as reported in The Hayride here.)

The IG’s report found that the White House did make changes to the DOI’s Safety Report to the President, inserting recommendations for the moratorium after the peer review by the NAE scientists.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R.–La.), a member of the Natural Resources Committee, spoke with HUMAN EVENTS about IG report findings.

“I think the IG report established what we all suspected.  We knew that the engineers felt like a blanket moratorium was not indicated, that the causes of the disaster were identifiable and correctible.  They made that clear.  But we suspected that there had been an effort to use their authority to justify the moratorium.  This report demonstrates that indeed that was the case,” Cassidy said.

Some of the report’s key findings:

•    “OIG determined that the White House edit of the original DOI draft Executive Summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed by the experts.”

•    “Steve Black is the Counselor to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. … [Black] said that he also collaborated closely with the White House in preparing the Report, specifically the staff of Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.”

•    “Black said that the next morning, Secretary Salazar directed him to begin working closely with a member of Carol Browner’s staff at the White House to draft the Executive Summary to include the moratorium.”

•    “Black’s staff member … confirmed Black’s statement that the White House made several edits and eventually returned the Executive Summary back to DOI sometime “after 3 am” on the morning of May 27, 2010.”

•    “A principal for Petroskills, a petroleum training alliance, and was also a peer reviewer of the Report. … He believes DOI should not make such a blanket decision without first seeking expert peer review, but rather DOI should seek such peer review and then make a moratorium decision based on that review.”

•    “[The Petroskills] peer reviewer also expressed concern that DOI is proposing the moratorium without any input from expert peer reviewers.  He questioned why DOI would not peer review such an important, far-reaching decision in light of the fact that DOI had all of the safety recommendations listed in the Report undergo peer review.”

•    “[Minerals Management Director Elizabeth] Birnbaum … had no knowledge that Secretary Salazar planned on recommending the moratorium in the Executive Summary of the 30-Day Report to the President. … According to Birnbaum, she asked [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Mary Katherine] Ishee why the moratorium recommendation had been inserted in the Executive Summary; Ishee told her that Black had inserted the moratorium recommendation based upon an agreement with the White House to do so.”

•    “At 2:13 on May 27, 2010, Browner’s staff member sent an email [that] revised and re-ordered the Executive Summary, placing the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the Secretary’s moratorium recommendation—which had not been peer reviewed—and the recommendations contained in the 30-Day Report—which had been peer reviewed—to become effectively lost.”

Obama administration officials in the IG report said they had repeatedly apologized to the scientists and didn’t mean to mislead anyone—it was just basically a bad comb-over of the facts that led to the unfortunate misunderstanding when the White House rushed to make changes the DOI report.  (Why is the White House making changes to the DOI report to the White House?)

Rep. Cassidy told HE in an exclusive interview that it appeared to him that the report was massaged to achieve the desired political result.

“We know it went through several iterations and that pieces were cut and pasted until the tone they desired was achieved.  We know that despite the engineers’ saying that a blanket moratorium was not indicated … the administration has persisted in such. We also know the fact that there are 58,000 shallow water wells out there, that they also put forth a moratorium on shallow water [drilling] even though there have only been 15 barrels of oil spilled [in shallow water] in the last 10 years,” Cassidy said.

“So you have to assume that there is a broader agenda, a political agenda that the editing, the cutting and pasting, helped them achieve,” Cassidy advised.

“Keep in mind this agenda goes further than the Outer Continental Shelf.  It also includes drilling in general.  There are human stories here that the administration would like to ignore—12,000 jobs by their estimate and $1.8 billion in lost economic activity by their estimate—with far more jobs and lost economic activity by other, shall we say, more objective estimates.”