Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado, is refusing to cooperate with a Congressional subpoena and investigation into his ill-advised 2010 drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.
His action led a federal judge to find him in contempt in 2011.
“Salazar may soon face another contempt charge — this time from Congress,” the Washington Examiner recently editorialized. “If it goes that far, he would become the second Cabinet official ever to suffer this ignominy, the first being President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder.”
In 2010, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, Salazar issued a blanket 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was not amused, especially when eight of the experts called in to consult on the matter issued a statement saying that they had seen and approved only an earlier draft, calling for a more limited moratorium.
“In the appendix of the May 27 report, it lists the names of 15 experts that you consulted with,” Sen. Landrieu told Secretary Salazar in June of 2010 [see video above.] “I received a letter yesterday from eight of them who say they disagree with your decision to impose the six-month moratorium. In their words, the report does not justify the moratorium as written and the moratorium will not contribute measurably to increase safety and it will have an immediate and long-term economic effect.”
In 2011, the House Natural Resources Committee, led by its Chairman Don Hastings, R-Wash., began an investigation into exactly what happened with both Salazar’s decision and the report on the spill that led to the moratorium. Last week, Rep. Hastings finally set a deadline for the Interior Department to make some of its officials who had drafted the report available for on-the-record questioning, with the schedule to be set by last Friday, and the interviews to take place this week.
With the passing of the deadline last Friday, Hastings issued a letter that stated…
“As explained in the July 6 letter, the Department’s continuing refusal to provide all documents covered by the April subpoena has left the Committee no choice other than to continue to pursue compliance with the subpoena, including to seek necessary information directly from the officials who were most involved in interacting with the peer reviewers and drafting and editing the Drilling Moratorium Report.”
On July 6, USA Today reported that…
“Spokesman Spencer Pederson said the chairman ‘is not taking anything off the table,’ including a contempt of Congress charge, to enforce the subpoena.”
Drilling activity has improved slowly in the Gulf but the moratorium did economic damage. Meanwhile, the desire to open up offshore drilling is bipartisan in the states affected, as the Administration found out when it offended virtually every elected official and office-seeker in Virginia this week, by leaving it off the list of leases to be opened up.