Senators Seek Review Of Inspector's Work On Drilling Report

12:17 PM, May. 25, 2012

By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — Three Gulf Coast GOP senators question whether an Interior Department watchdog acted appropriately when she investigated the Obama administration's handling of its 2010 moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Mary Kendall, the Interior Department's acting inspector general, told USA TODAY this week that she was present for meetings at which top Interior officials discussed a report on drilling safety following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 people and resulted in the largest oil spill in American history.

STORY: Interior inspector defends impartiality in drilling report

Kendall stood by her earlier testimony to Congress that she did not participate in drafting the report, and so she had no conflict of interest in looking into whether it was improperly edited.

The three senators —David Vitter, R-La.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; and John Cornyn, R-Texas — asked the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to investigate whether Kendall "failed to ensure an independent, impartial and complete investigation." The panel, chaired by a top FBI official, can investigate inspector general misconduct.

Kendall was investigating whether the report violated the Information Quality Act, a 2001 law governing the integrity of data used by agencies. Several deepwater engineers who had reviewed the report had complained that it was improperly edited by the White House to suggest they agreed with the moratorium when they did not.

Kendall's investigation found that the report "could have been more clearly worded" but that there was no violation of the law.

Kendall declined to comment Thursday, saying she would let the process "take its proper course."

Interior Department press secretary Adam Fetcher said the continued inquiry by congressional Republicans was an attempt to "re-litigate an issue that was resolved two years ago," when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apologized for the mistakes in editing.