By Zack Colman - 03/12/13 12:55 PM EDT
“Questions remain about whether the IRU has been allowed to operate as a law enforcement program, reporting only to the BSEE Director and without sufficient public scrutiny and oversight from the Department and Congress,” Hastings said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The unit is the product of a broader overhaul of the Interior Department following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Ensuing investigations of the agency's offshore program showed a cozy relationship between drillers and regulators prior to the spill.
But Hastings had questions about the expertise of the unit's employees and whether they served in a law enforcement capacity. He also said he was uncertain how many people worked for the unit and whether their functions replicated those of any other Interior efforts.
He asked Salazar to provide more details about the program and its employees' backgrounds, among other items.
Hastings has frequently spoken out against the Interior Department's offshore regulatory regime and has vowed to step up his oversight this session.
Last month, he called on President Obama to replace the department's acting internal watchdog and her chief of staff, suggesting they were too soft on the administration.
Hastings and Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee also were some of the most vocal opponents to Obama’s six-month Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling freeze following the 2010 oil spill.
— Updated at 11:39 a.m.