House GOP doubles down on drilling report probe

The new subpoena requests 13 documents that the committee says the Interior Department failed to provide in response to the first separate subpoena issued by Hastings earlier this month. The inspector general’s office has until April 18 to provide the remaining documents.

Republicans on the committee have been investigating the 2010 Interior report for months. The report mistakenly suggested that outside engineers consulted for the study had backed the deepwater drilling moratorium, which was imposed in the aftermath of the spill and lifted in October 2010.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apologized to the engineers about the mistaken impression the report left that they had endorsed a drilling freeze.

Interior’s inspector general noted in a late 2010 report that Interior officials who were interviewed said they never intended to leave the impression that the outside reviewers backed the ban.

Republicans and some oil-state Democrats have blasted Interior for imposing the moratorium, arguing it was an overreaction to the spill and caused extended economic damage to the region.

The committee, in a March 28 party-line vote, gave Hastings broad authority to subpoena the department for information about the report. Hasting issued the first subpoena April 3.

Interior provided 164 pages of documents related to the report Tuesday night and said more would be coming later this week. The department also offered an “in camera” review, in which staff can read documents without keeping hard copies, of two May 2010 drafts of the report.

But Interior, while noting it is “committed” to working with the committee on its investigation, said the subpoena is “broad and ill-defined,” making it difficult for the department to comply. The department also said the subpoena compromises confidential executive-branch deliberations.

The Interior Department declined to comment on the most recent subpoena, directing questions to the inspector general's office. The inspector general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.