House committee says Obama administration may have edited 2010 report to favor Gulf oil drilling moratorium

The Obama administration was subpoenaed Tuesday for documents that congressional investigators hope would shed light on how a government report was edited to indicate experts endorsed a moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Interior Department officials have refused to comply with repeated requests from the House Resources Committee to provide documents that lawmakers say would show if political appointees at the agency or White House were involved in the editing decision and whether it was intentional.

“President Obama pledged unprecedented transparency and it’s regrettable that a Congressional subpoena is necessary to obtain documents pertaining to the administration’s report that recommended a six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), committee chairman.

“The report falsely stated the professional views of independent engineers and the moratorium directly caused thousands of lost jobs, economic pain throughout the Gulf region, and a decline in American energy production.  It’s important to clearly understand exactly how this happened,” Hastings said.

The May 27, 2010 report from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was published at Obama’s request just weeks after the disaster to examine safety measures in place for energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, and included the recommendation for an immediate moratorium that was quickly imposed.

The department claimed to have based its decision on expertise from “within the federal government, academia, professional engineers, industry, and other governments’ regulatory programs.”

The report also said seven members of the National Academy of Engineering had peer reviewed the recommendations and it appeared as if they supported the drilling moratorium.

However, those experts quickly came forward and said they actually opposed the temporary ban.

“We broadly agree with the detailed recommendations in the report and compliment the Department of Interior for its efforts,” the engineers said in a letter to lawmakers. “However, we do not agree with the six-month blanket moratorium on floating drilling. A moratorium was added after the final review and was never agreed to by the contributors.”

Lawmakers have been investigating the origins of the report for a year. Administration officials have one week to deliver the documents to Capitol Hill.