Obama Administration Misled Public on Drilling Ban, Says Interior Report

Published November 27, 2010

The Obama administration edited critical parts of a drilling safety report to falsely suggest outside scientists and engineers supported the administration’s six-month ban on new deep-water drilling, the Interior Department’s inspector general reports.

Panel Never Addressed Ban
In May 2010 the Obama administration Interior Department released a report implying an outside team of seven scientists and engineers peer-reviewed and supported President Obama’s decision to ban offshore oil and natural gas drilling for six months in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. However, the seven-member panel of outside experts was tasked with peer-reviewing 22 safety recommendations for deepwater drilling, not the recommendation of a six-month ban on all new deepwater drilling.

The panel then expressed concern the wording of the Interior Department report was misleading and falsely implied the panel supported the ban. 

The peer reviewers wrote in a letter to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) they were “concerned that our names are connected with the [deepwater drilling] moratorium as proposed in the executive summary of the report. There is an implication that we have somehow agreed to or “peer reviewed” the main recommendation of that report. This is not the case” (emphasis in original).

Review Says Report Misled
After a six-month investigation, the Interior Department Office of the Inspector General in November confirmed 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.”

After the Inspector General’s findings were released, Jindal expressed his frustration at the Obama administration for misleading the public.

“It’s disappointing, and it will be shocking news to most Americans, but to us in Louisiana it is no surprise at all. The Obama administration should have actually listened to their own experts and enacted their specific recommended steps to ensure proper oversight and safe drilling. Instead, the Obama administration issued an arbitrary and capricious moratorium—those are the words of a federal judge—which has threatened the livelihoods of thousands of Americans,” Jindal said in a statement sent to Environment and Climate News.

A Simple Mistake?
Interior Department officials claim it was rushed editing of the Executive Summary by the Interior Department and the White House that resulted in the implication that the oil moratorium was peer-reviewed by the experts.

“This was clearly a decision made by [the Obama administration],” counters Daniel Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. “The idea that somehow this was an editing issue is not credible. This may be their excuse. This is like ‘the dog ate my homework.’
“At the end of the day, the facts remain the same,” Kish explained. “We’ve got a huge reduction in activity in the Gulf of Mexico, which supplies one-third of our nation’s domestic oil supply. They continue to have regulatory paralysis going forward despite the fact we’ve had over 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico prior to the BP Horizon blowout. And for some reason they chose this opportunity—politically—to go against the advice of the engineers and shut down our single most productive area in the United States for oil and gas development.” 
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.