The Inspector General of the Department of Interior has concluded that the White House rewrote an Interior Department report in a way that made it seem that an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. But the independent group of scientists did not peer review the ban, and some of them complained about the report’s suggestion that they did. The Inspector General has now agreed that the complaint has merit.
Based on Politico’s account, here is what seems to have happened:
In response to the spill, President Obama requested that the Interior Department review deepwater drilling practices and make recommendations for improvements. A seven-member panel of outside experts was used to review a draft of various safety recommendations. The panel did not review the idea of a moratorium on off-shore drilling.
The Interior Department drafted an executive summary of the recommendations. At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, the day the report was released, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the executive summary back to Interior. The two versions were similar. Both revised the summary to make it appear that the independent scientists had peer reviewed the recommendation of a moratorium.
They accomplished this by reordering paragraphs. The Interior Department’s draft had discussed peer review on the second page, following a summary list of safety recommendations that had, in fact, been peer reviewed. The final report, as a result of the White House’s edits, placed the suggestion of a moratorium immediately before the discussion of peer review. As the scientists complained, and as Inspector General concluded, this created the impression that the reviewers supported the six-month moratorium.
As a candidate, Barack Obama promised that science, not ideology, would guide his decisions. Mark that down as another broken promise — one that in this case is associated with an estimated 12,000 lost jobs and 1.8 billion dollars of lost economic activity, according to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La).
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