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Vitter: Salazar, Bromwich giving inexcusably inconsistent information on permit applications

Posted on 17 March 2011

Sen. David Vitter (D-La.) expressed his “deep frustration” this week with the administration’s misrepresentation of the number of drilling permits awaiting approval by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BOEMRE Michael Bromwich, Sen. Vitter noted that “it is completely inexcusable for the information that both of you have provided to be so completely inconsistent with that of Department of Justice’s (DOJ) court filing last week.”

Both have stated publicly, before Congress and in private with congressional members, that there are only a handful of pending permits. For example, Secretary Salazar testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago that the administration had received only 47 shallow-water permit applications over the past nine months and that only seven deepwater permit applications were pending. Mr Bromwich has also told Sen. Vitter personally that only six deepwater permit applications are pending.

Yet these statements are completely inconsistent with the DOJ’s motion filing last week for a stay of Judge Martin Feldman’s rulings requiring the BOEMRE to take action. In that filing, the DOJ claimed there is potential harm in the “re-prioritization that results from the court’s orders” to issue seven permits in the judge’s February and March orders. DOJ explained that is because there are 270 shallow-water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.

“It is not possible for there to be ‘too few permits’ awaiting review, and simultaneously ‘too many’ permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic,” Sen. Vitter’s letter said.

He went on to remind Secretary Salazar and Mr Bromwich of their responsibilities as agency officials and urged them to provide accurate, clear, complete and unbiased information. “Disseminating false or misleading information impedes the credibility of BOEMRE and has a profound and direct impact on the people of Louisiana,” the letter stated.

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