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Committee to Issue Subpoenas for Five Interior Dept. Officials in Drilling Moratorium

The House Natural Resources Committee voted 26-17 today to let Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) proceed with issuing subpoenas for five Obama administration officials involved in the disputed report that led to the Gulf drilling moratorium.

The officials -- who never confirmed an invitation to appear at a hearing last week, thus leading to its postponement until September -- are believed to have direct knowledge or involvement in the drafting, editing or review of the Department of the Interior report that was edited to appear as though the moratorium was supported by a panel of engineering experts when it was not.

The Interior Department has refused requests made by the panel since February to interview the officials in the course of its investigation.

The officials are Steve Black, counselor to Secretary Ken Salazar; Neal Kemkar, special assistant to Steve Black; Mary Katherine Ishee, deputy administrator, Minerals Management Service; Walter Cruickshank, deputy administrator, Minerals Management Service; and Kallie Hanley, White House liaison & special assistant.

"Taking steps to issue subpoenas is not the preferred option," Hastings said today. "In fact, I hope never to have to use this authority. We shouldn't have to compel answers from an administration that claims to be the most open and transparent in history. But if the department continues to stonewall, we'll be left with no other choice."

The Interior Department has failed to comply with a subpoena requesting documents related to the moratorium, served in April to Salazar.

"This situation could have been easily avoided if the department was simply willing to answer questions and turn over documents. The department is choosing to do this the hard way," Hastings said. "There is no excuse for the department's behavior. The American people deserve the truth and deserve to have a full account of the circumstances surrounding this matter."