Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A combustible mix for White House: Gulf oil spill and politics

President Obama's vow that science would guide energy policy in the wake of the Gulf oil spill has come under scrutiny amid reports that unnamed people within the White House, in a late-night editing session of a drilling safety paper, made it sound as if a scientific group backed a controversial six-month deepwater-drilling moratorium – when, in fact, the group didn't. The Interior Department's acting inspector general, Mary Kendall, released her findings on the discrepancy Wednesday, saying that the May 27 paper, released by the Interior Department, "could have been more clearly worded." But, she added, the Interior Department "has not definitely" violated the Information Quality Act (IQA). That law forbids federal agencies from releasing information they know is false. "The department also appears to have adequately remedied the IQA concerns by communicating directly with the experts, offering a formal apology and publicly clarifying the nature of the peer review," Ms. Kendall said. But the matter is unlikely to go away entirely, given that a presidential oil-spill commission has been critical both of Mr. Obama's slow response early on to the crisis and of White House findings that played down the impact of the oil spill. In this context, Kendall's findings fall straight into the hands of congressional Republicans, who have already hinted they'll use their new House majority to investigate whether the White House's energy policy was driven by politics...more