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Report: White House altered drilling safety report

By Associated Press
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 11:10 EDT
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The Interior Department’s inspector general says the White House edited a drilling safety report in a way that made it falsely appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of the administration’s six-month ban on new drilling.

The inspector general says the editing changes resulted “in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.” But it hadn’t been. The scientists were only asked to review new safety measures for offshore drilling.

“There was no intent to mislead the public,” said Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who also recommended in the May 27 safety report that a moratorium be placed on deepwater oil and gas exploration. “The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House.”

The Interior Department, after one of the reviewers complained about the inference, promptly issued an apology to the reviewers during a conference call, with a letter and personal meeting in June.

The inspector general’s report, which was originally requested by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Steve Scalise in June, said the administration did not violate federal rules because the executive summary did not say the experts approved the recommendations and the department offered a formal apology and had publicly clarified the nature of the expert review.

But Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, said in a statement that the investigation proved “that the blanket drilling moratorium was driven by a politics and not by science.”

“Candidate Obama promised that he would guided by science, not ideology,” Cassidy said. Cassidy said if that were true thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity would have been preserved on the Gulf coast.

The Web site Politico was first to report the inspector general’s findings. The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the report, which has not been publicly released.

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