New Debate Over Administration's Gulf Drilling Ban

The Department of Interior inspector general's investigative report has been posted about whether the May 27 moratorium on deepwater drilling was falsely portrayed as having been peer reviewed by a panel of experts.

The decision in May to halt deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was highly unpopular in the region, and a newly posted report from the Department of Interior's inspector general may inflame the argument further. The six-month moratorium followed the April 20 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and a subsequent major oil spill into the gulf. The IG's investigative report examines whether the May 27 moratorium on deepwater drilling was falsely portrayed as having been peer reviewed by a panel of experts.

The peer review language in the May 27 document immediately follows the moratorium recommendation, "resulting in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed," Acting Inspector General Mary L. Kendall writes in her Nov. 9 memorandum to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. She investigated whether the document violated the Information Quality Act and concluded it was not, according to her memo.

"While the 30-Day Report's Executive Summary could have been more clearly worded, the Department has not definitively violated the IQA," she wrote. "For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate the peer reviewers approved any of the Report's recommendations. 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."

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