Here’s the book-jacket teaser: A major U.S. environmental disaster strikes. As Coast Guard and other heroes struggle to contain the unprecedented damage, a different scene unfolds in a dimly lit conference room in Washington. A small group of high-ranking political hacks and overzealous ideologues see an opportunity to manipulate the situation to advance their agenda. They doctor a key report on the disaster by experts in order to justify shutting down all exploration and new production. They explain the sweeping decision as something sound science requires.
Several weeks later, members of Congress and a few in the media dig deeper into the alleged science behind bringing an entire industry to a screeching halt. That’s when the cover-up begins.
A catchy political thriller? If only it were fiction. Instead, it’s what seems to have happened in the Obama administration following the BP disaster.
And as a U.S. senator from Louisiana, I suffered through seeing it firsthand.
Some aspects of the 30-day experts’ report seemed suspect to me from the beginning. So I called for an inspector general to investigate the Obama administration’s claim that science supported the decision to shut down the Gulf. That investigation revealed that high-ranking officials in the Department of the Interior and the White House inappropriately manipulated the 30-day experts’ report to justify the offshore drilling moratorium — all in violation of the Information Quality Act and contrary to sound science.
On June 21, 2010, new reports revealed that the scientists in question in fact opposed the moratorium. They were shocked that their report was doctored to justify it. They even actively lobbied Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to soften the ban.
However, on Nov. 10, 2010, Mary Kendall, the inspector general for the Interior Department investigation, concluded that Interior officials were really only guilty of sloppy editing. She determined that Interior’s moving some words around in the experts’ report was more akin to a clerical error, and that Interior Secretary Salazar had already apologized for that.