Gulf Coast residents have plenty of reasons to be furious at the Obama administration’s ham-handed, job-killing responses to last spring’s BP oil spill. A new report by the Interior Department’s inspector general further roils the waters.
Interior IG Mary L. Kendall reported last week that the staff of White House energy czar Carol M. Browner improperly edited a report on how to improve safety in deep-sea drilling. The effect was to indicate falsely that there was scientific support for President Obama’s decision to impose a six-month moratorium on such energy production. The truth was that seven scientists and industry experts peer-reviewed a number of new safety measures but didn’t sign off on the moratorium. Five of the seven favored targeted inspections rather than an outright ban.
The difference was important. The Obama administration persistently peddles the myth that its decisions are driven by science rather than politics. White House editing of the report fed this myth and provided a veneer of purportedly scientific cover for the politically controversial moratorium.
The inspector general neither challenged nor fully accepted White House claims that the editing error was inadvertent rather than deliberately deceptive. Yet it wasn’t the only time this year that Ms. Browner was responsible for meaningful deception. The presidential commission on the oil spill criticized her for having claimed during the summer that most of the oil was “gone” when a government analysis said most of it could still be there, and it criticized her again for implying that her assertions had been peer-reviewed.
All of this is endemic to this administration’s radical environmentalism. Federal District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman threw out the first moratorium because of the likelihood it would be proved “arbitrary and capricious.” In October, he voided 10 safety regulations imposed on the whole industry because the administration didn’t provide adequate notice and opportunity for public comment.
According to Louisiana State University professor Joseph Mason, the administration underestimated the number of jobs - as many as 155,000 - that would be lost because of the moratorium. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained that the president was nonchalant about those lost jobs. “He said, Governor, if people lose their jobs because of the moratorium, they can file a BP claim.” Asked what if BP wouldn’t pay, Mr. Obama reportedly said, “Don’t worry, Governor, they can file an unemployment claim.”
When it comes to the administration’s campaign against fossil-fuel development, neither the human toll nor the science seems to matter. Even Kate Sheppard of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine weighed in about the new inspector general’s report. “If this were the George W. Bush administration,” she admitted, “we’d all be falling over ourselves complaining about the lack of scientific integrity here.”
Ms. Kendall’s report is another reason to question the integrity of more than the administration’s dubious science.