Vitter, senators, offer new information for investigation of Gulf moratorium cover-up

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

U.S. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today presented new information for the investigation into a potential cover-up of documents that led to the drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. The focus of the investigation is Mary Kendall, acting Inspector General at the Department of Interior, who appears to have blocked a full investigation into manipulation of a National Academy of Engineers report by the White House and senior Interior officials.

“The moratorium crushed thousands of jobs – many of which Louisiana is still suffering from – and it’s pretty outrageous and offensive to know that politics were more of an influence than sound science,” Vitter said. “When there is widespread distrust within the organization in charge of investigating inappropriate political influence, we’re looking at a huge problem. It’s my hope that the ongoing investigation can help us get to the bottom of this political cover-up.”

The new information presented by the senators is a survey showing that a significant number of employees at the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General believe the OIG does not conduct its work in a manner that is “independent” from the Interior Department. Inspectors General, by law, must remain independent from their respective agency. It is noted in the survey results that, “there are at least perceptions the acting IG and COS did not do the right thing, i.e., improperly quashed investigations, and have not been forthright with Congress.”

Immediately following the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling in 2010, Vitter asked the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate the oil spill report that led to the moratorium and a possible mistake in reporting the facts. At the time, Interior’s IG provided a summary back to Vitter saying any mistakes were inadvertent.  Evidence has since shown that there was likely collaboration between DOI officials and their Inspector General.

In May Vitter, Sessions and Cornyn requested the investigation of Mary Kendall, on the grounds that she improperly suppressed the investigation, and failed to be forthright with Congress. In July, the federal Integrity Committee, the overseeing entity of all federal Inspector Generals, agreed to pursue the matter