Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) announced today he would block the confirmation of Dr. Scott Doney to be chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration due to “concerns over scientific integrity at federal agencies and the White House.”
These concerns stem from the recent Gulf offshore drilling moratorium and the ongoing lag in permit issuance since the ban was lifted in October. In a letter sent to President Obama today, Vitter characterizes it “as a continuing de facto moratorium.”
Vitter also plans to hold a hearing before the Senate Small Business Committee on the Interior Department’s inspector general report that found a White House drilling safety report had been edited in a way that, “led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts,” when it had not. The executive summary became part of Interior’s safety report that was used to justify the controversial moratorium.
In Vitter’s letter to Obama, he revealed his intention to call energy czar Carol Browner and Steve Black, counselor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, as witnesses. Browner was named in the inspector general’s report as sending the edited versions of the executive summary to Interior, while Black, in charge of the report from Interior’s side, accepted the edited versions.
Vitter also requested a response from Salazar to a Nov. 21 letter outlining unresolved regulatory issues that have led to the permitting logjam.
This isn’t the first time an Obama administration nominee has faced scrutiny as a result of the moratorium and the subsequent lack of permitting in the Gulf region. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) blocked the confirmation of Jack Lew to head the Office of Management and Budget until the administration agreed to a meeting between oil and gas industry leaders and Salazar and Michael Bromwich of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
But since that meeting took place last month in Houma, LA, the rate of permit issuance has continued to lag. Neither Vitter nor industry leaders feel their concerns about the “de facto moratorium” were adequately answered and remain frustrated.