The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee today set a deadline by which he wants to be able to question Interior Department officials involved in the edited report that led to the Obama administration’s drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-Wash.) request comes the same day that the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency set a hearing date next week to investigate the Interior Department’s Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in their May investigation request that Kendall “failed to ensure an independent, impartial and complete investigation into the Administration’s offshore drilling moratorium and related activities” and may have impeded the probe into allegations that the White House twisted scientific reports to support the drilling freeze in the wake of the BP spill.
“Absent a valid assertion of a Constitutionally based privilege, the Department’s continuing refusal to provide certain requested documents violates the subpoena and frustrates Congress’ ability to fulfill its Constitutional oversight responsibilities,” Hastins wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “As such, the Committee is left with no choice other than to continue to pursue compliance with the subpoena, as well as 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.”
The letter sets a July 12 scheduling deadline for interviews the week of July 16.
Hastings notes that the Interior Department has told him that the committee’s investigation was unnecessary because the inspector general — now being investigated herself — was probing the matter.
The list of five requested witnesses includes two former Minerals Management Service administrators and Kallie Hanley, former White House liaison & special assistant, now serving as senior adviser in the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs.
“The interviews are necessary to obtain information relevant to the Committee’s oversight investigation, and the need for them is heightened given the Department’s repeated refusal to provide documents even in the face of a duly authorized and issued Congressional subpoena,” Hastings wrote.