Interior Department responds to IG investigation into its oil spill report

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:10 am

The Interior Department responded swiftly this morning to a report by its inspector general that said last-minute editing by the White House of a report on the oil spill led to the false implication that the report’s recommendation of a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling had been peer reviewed by scientists and industry experts.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sent a letter yesterday to Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall arguing that her investigation into the circumstances surrounding the release of a 30-day report on the oil spill “confirms that there was no wrongdoing or intent to mislead the public.”

Kendra Barkoff, Interior Department spokeswoman, highlighted the letter in an attempt to downplay the report:

Secretary Salazar’s letter speaks for itself. There was no intent to mislead the public. The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the Secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House.

In addition, Barkoff pointed to a June 3 letter to Dr. Per Holland addressing his concerns that the report misrepresented the extent to which he and other experts reviewed the recommendations. In the letter, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes said:

By listing you as a member of the [National Academy of Engineering] panel that peer-reviewed the 22 safety recommendations contained in the Report, we did not mean to imply that you also agreed with the decision to impose a moratorium on all new deepwater drilling. We acknowledge that you were not asked to review or comment on the moratorium.

Barkoff, referencing Hayes’ June 3 letter, said that the issue had been resolved months ago:

As the report makes clear, the misunderstanding with the reviewers was resolved with the June 3rd letter and a subsequent conference call with those experts.

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