03.21.2011 1

Sen. Vitter Highlights Team Obama’s Duplicity Toward Oil Drilling During Sunshine Week

By Kevin Mooney –

Take a good look at the recent filing from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that seeks to stay a court order directing the feds to issue new oil drilling permits. It tells a much different story than what top Obama Administration officials claim in their statements to members of Congress.

In a letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) details these discrepancies.

“Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action,” Vitter wrote in the letter. “It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be ‘too few permits’ awaiting review, and simultaneously ‘too many’ permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic.”

The numbers reported on page 11 of a motion the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed last week tell a much different story than what has recently reported in congressional testimony and transmitted privately to elected officials, Vitter notes in his letter. The DOJ motion seeks to stay federal judge Martin Feldman’s two recent orders directing BOEMRE to issue at least seven permits. Since there are 270 shallow water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending, the court’s orders could force a potentially harmful “re-prioritization,” DOJ warns in its filing.

However, in his recent testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Salazar said the Interior Department has received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the past nine months and only seven deepwater permit applications are pending. For his part, Bromwich told Vitter personally that only six deepwater permits are pending and publicly stated that deepwater permits would be limited because “only a handful of completed applications have been received.”

The timing of Vitter’s letter coincided appropriately enough with Sunshine Week, which ran through Saturday, Mar. 19. It is a national effort organized through the American Society of News Editors that highlights the public’s right to know about government activities.

Salazar and Bromwich both have a legal obligation to maintain the integrity of the information they convey in their official capacities, Vitter points out in his letter.

“I would like to remind you of your responsibility as agency officials under the Information Quality Act (IQA). Section 515 of the IQA directs federal agencies to maximize “the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity” of information they prepare and disseminate and it requires agencies to adopt and follow implementing guidelines. The OMB guidelines note the IQA applies to the “creation, collection, maintenance, and dissemination of information.” The basic standard of care is that information must be “accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased.” Stricter and even more rigorous quality standards apply when the information is “influential,” meaning it will “have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies….”

British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded one year ago this past April 20 killing 11 workers and causing an estimated 5 million barrels of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama Administration responded with a series of proviso and restrictions on future drilling that besets the industry to this day.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau.

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