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Obama’s Dept. of Interior: Criminal, Incompetent, or a Combination of Both – UPDATE

Via Memeorandum, Politico reports that Interior’s Inspector General released a report of the Department of Interior’s politicized handling of the 6-month offshore drilling moratorium. In addition to personnel at the DOI, the IG skewers the White House’s unconfirmed “Energy Czar” Carol Browner and her staff. The IG report shows another example of the “Keystone Kops” method of running government used by the people in this administration. It also puts a final expiration date on another of Obama’s campaign promises that science, and not politics, would be used on such issues.

Several House Republicans requested the IG look into how the moratorium came about after several scientists named to review the government’s options regarding this year’s huge oil spill had objected to DOI claiming those scientists had recommended the full moratorium. Let’s hope Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) takes this up in greater detail after he becomes chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

There are some real doozies in the IG report.

The main objection had to do with what the IG report states was in the Executive Summary that recommended the moratorium (page 4 of the IG report PDF) [emphasis mine]:

The Secretary further recommends an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including the relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling operations should cease as soon as safely practicable for a 6-month period.

The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering. Those experts, who volunteered their time and expertise, are identified in Appendix 1. The Department also consulted with a wide range of experts from government, academia and industry.

The responsibility for putting together the Executive Summary and the DOI report was given by Obama’s hack Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar to Steve Black, Counselor to the Secretary. According to the IG, Obama was given the option to implement the moratorium on May 25 but wanted to sleep on it. Following that:

Accordingly, Black said that Secretary Salazar instructed him to draft two different Executive Summaries to the Report; one including the decision to invoke the moratorium and a second not including the moratorium. Black said that the next morning Secretary Salazar directed him to begin working closely with a member of Carol Browner’s staff at the White House to draft the Executive Summary to include the moratorium.

[snip]

Black said that Salazar felt it was very important to have the recommendations undergo the peer review process and he wanted this stressed in the Executive Summary.

But then things went awry:

After he drafted the Executive Summary, Black sent it to a member of Browner’s staff at the White House. According to Black, Browner was concerned that the Executive Summary did not summarize the recommendations and the associated timetables well enough; therefore, Browner’s staff drafted some of the text to be included in the Executive Summary themselves. After several iterations between him and Browner’s staff, Black said that he received a final version of the Executive Summary from the White House “around 2 or 3am” the morning it was ultimately finalized. After receiving the final product from the White House, Black said that he reviewed the final draft; he did not have any issues with the text added by the White House.

The last two pages of the IG report contain the details of what happened above:

A review of the emails that Black sent to the White House at 11:38 p.m. on May 26, 2010, reflects that in DOI’s draft of the Executive Summary the moratorium was discussed on the first page of the Executive Summary, while the peer review language was on the second page of the Executive Summary, immediately following a summary list of the safety recommendations contained in the body of the 30-Day Report, which had been peer reviewed.

At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, Browner’s staff member sent an email back to Black that contained two edited versions of the Executive Summary. Both versions sent by the staff member contained significant edits to DOI’s draft Executive Summary but were very similar to each other. Both versions, however, revised and re-ordered the Executive Summary, placing the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the Secretary’s moratorium recommendation – which had not been peer reviewed – and the recommendations contained in the 30-Day Report – which had been peer reviewed – to become effectively lost. Although the Executive Summary underwent some additional minor editing, it was ultimately published on May 27, 2010, with the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation.

The final report from Interior was sent on May 27 with the language from the White House identified in the IG report.

So here we have the unconfirmed “Energy Czar” and her staff completely rewriting the Executive Summary, which includes an implication the moratorium was peer-reviewed and approved by the experts picked by the administration, even though it wasn’t true. Worse, Black found nothing wrong with the rewrites from Browner and her staff.

After that, all hell broke loose. The experts publicly said they didn’t recommend any kind of moratorium, especially the one the administration put in place. The IG goes on to say that Black and Salazar spent the next several weeks apologizing to the experts. They also spent a lot of time covering their tracks. Note this:

Black stated that it was no one’s intention to imply that the peer reviewers reviewed the 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling policy decision.

Right.

When asked if an objective reader of the Executive Summary might conclude that the peer reviewers reviewed the moratorium recommendation, due to the organization of the text, Black stated again that it was not the intention of DOI or the White House to imply this was the case. He explained that due to the rush to complete the Report and the Executive Summary, time did not allow for careful editing and review of the Executive Summary. He then said that the Report itself and the draft Executive Summary did undergo the surnaming process, but the final Executive Summary did not.

The poor thing was rushed. Awwwwww…

You have people in the government running around with their heads cut off. What’s fascinating is that it was the White House who put in the objectionable statements within the report, although it was signed off by Salazar and Black at Interior. Even more fascinating is the fact that the IG didn’t identify who on Browner’s staff reviewed and rewrote the Executive Summary or interview anyone from that group. Naturally, the IG punted on its conclusion of the obvious politicization of the moratorium. As I mentioned earlier, Rep. Issa needs to find out all those involved.

But this is par for the course with this administration. Not only does this show a rampant incompetency, we’d already seen how Salazar and the administration ignored a court order to lift the moratorium (Salazar finally kinda, sorta lifted the ban last month), something else ignored by the IG. Republicans need to hammer at Obama to dump Salazar, Black, and every other political appointee at the DOI, along with getting rid of Browner and her whole ridiculous office. The only thing they know is their ideology. And the science this administration professes will drive their decisions? It’s ignored when the science proves inconvenient.

One other thing. One of the scientists tapped early on by the government to review its options was Prof. Jonathan Katz, a physicist at Washington University in St. Louis. He was dismissed within a day or two later for not being politically correct after the discovery of a piece he wrote in 1999 called “In Defense of Homophobia” (access to it has since been removed). The gay lobby was livid and called on the government to dump Katz. As with Salazar’s report, the Obama administration ignored the science and the scientific acumen Katz could provide and caved to the gay mafia lobby and acquiesced in getting rid of Katz. Early on, politics was always the most important factor to this administration than anything else, even more important than the Constitution, the law, and the well-being of the American people.

UPDATE: Almost forgot the most important thing. As mentioned by Ed Morrissey, thousands of jobs were lost as a result of this ridiculous and overreaching moratorium that was based purely on politics and not science.

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