A senior federal investigator accused the White House of having stonewalled a probe into whether an administration report on the April 2010 BP oil spill was doctored by the White House to show President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was backed by outside experts, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The revelation of the charges comes at an unwelcome time for Obama as he tries to tout job gains and claim success at expanding drilling. The deepwater ban established soon after the spill, along with a decline in permitting for shallow water drilling, cost thousands of jobs.
The White House and the Department of Interior said the claim in the May 2010 report that experts backed the ban was an editing mistake, but the investigator, according to emails he sent in 2010 and 2011, believed otherwise. From the Times-Picayune story:
In one email obtained by The Times-Picayune, Richard Larrabee, senior special agent assigned to investigate the matter for the Department of Interior’s inspector general, wrote: “I truly believe the editing ‘WAS’ intentional — by an overzealous staffer at the White House. And, if asked, I, as the case agent, would be happy to state that opinion to anyone interested.” Larrabee declined Monday to comment on the emails.
Larrabee, a special agent assigned to investigate the misinformation in the report for the Department of Interior’s inspector general, also charged that the Secretary of Interior’s office denied investigators full access to “records, reports, audits, review documents, papers, and recommendations of other material.”
An Interior official told the Times-Picayune that the agency provided “all the relevant documents that were requested.”
Larrabee was seeking to interview Joe Aldy, a White House official involved in last-minute editing of the report. But the White House refused and Interior officials did not have authority to compel it to comply.
The experts comprised a panel that was established soon after the spill to advise the Obama administration on what to do about offshore safety in the wake of the disaster. The May 27, 2010 report by Interior Secretary Salazar to Obama said the panel had “peer reviewed” Salazar’s recommendation for a six-month moratorium on all ongoing drilling deeper than 500 feet.
That provoked outrage from panel members who said they had not agreed that such strict measures were warranted.
The House Natural Resources Committee is investigating the affair.