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House Panel Subpoenas Drilling Moratorium Documents

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings issued a subpoena today for documents related to a six month drilling moratorium that was spurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) issued a congressional subpoena today for documents related to the Obama administration’s six month drilling moratorium that was spurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The subpoena comes as the House GOP is attacking President Barack Obama over rising gas prices and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is highlighting committee investigations on the issue.

Hastings hopes the documents, first requested nearly a year ago in April 2011, will shed more light on the role of White House aides in editing a report with safety recommendations issued in the wake of the 2010 spill.

The report implied that a panel of seven outside experts who reviewed the report backed the moratorium. The experts did not, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar apologized for implying they did after some complained.

The department’s inspector general found in a November 2010 report that a White House aide working under then-Obama energy and climate change coordinator Carol Browner had made the edits implying the panel backed the moratorium.

Administration officials said the edits were a mistake, but the report itself did not reach a conclusion on whether it was a mistake or an attempt to mislead.

Hastings first requested the documents in an April 25, 2011, letter and has continued pushing the Department of the Interior over the past 11 months.

Hastings sent a final letter Jan. 25 setting a Feb. 9 deadline to provide the documents, which the department missed.

Adam Fetcher, a Department of the Interior spokesman, said that in response to the committee’s oversight inquiries over the past year, the department has provided testimony, “thousands of pages” of documents, “and made clear that we intend to continue to cooperate with the Committee’s legitimate oversight interests.”

“However, we also have expressed serious and long-standing institutional concerns about the committee’s efforts to compromise Executive Branch deliberations, particularly regarding pending Executive Branch decision making,” Fetcher said.

Hastings said issuing the subpoena was a “regrettable” step made necessary because the Department of the Interior has not complied with the long-standing request.

“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 in a written statement.

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