Vitter slams Interior Department for sending staff to Papua New Guinea

“I find it outrageous that the same Interior Department that can’t get a single exploration plan or deepwater drilling permit out the door apparently has the resources to send staff to a three-day workshop halfway around the world in Papua New Guinea to discuss offshore permitting,” he sad. “After months of foot-dragging and repeated claims that it needs more money to hire more staff to dedicate to offshore permitting, Interior’s choice to allocate funds to the government of Papua New Guinea is a disgrace to the people of the Gulf Coast.”

Staffers from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) attended the technical assistance workshop, which was organized by the State Department.

“BOEMRE welcomes this opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with the government of Papua New Guinea,” BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said in a statement about the trip.

BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said Wednesday the staffers sent to Papua New Guinea were not involved in approving offshore drilling permits. "No BOEMRE appropriated funds were utilized for this travel for the four staff members who participated (none of which directly approve permits). Funds came from the Department of State via the U.S. Agency for International Development," she said in an e-mail to The Hil.

The story was updated at 6:17 p.m.