Black's resignation from Interior was effective May 17, an agency official told The Hill. Black had served with Salazar since his days as Colorado's attorney general, following him to the Senate and then Interior.
"Steve Black played an important role in standing up the Department’s renewable energy program and laying a strong foundation for responsible renewable energy development on public lands in the West for decades to come," Jessica Kershaw, an Interior spokeswoman, told The Hill in an email.
Black's role at Interior is part of the House panel's oversight activities that began with its probe of Interior’s handling of a six-month deepwater drilling ban the Obama administration imposed in May 2010 following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Republicans slammed the White House for the freeze. They called it an overreaction that stunted economic activity, pointing out that permits for offshore drilling did not begin flowing again until 2011.
GOP committee members have blasted Interior for incorrectly suggesting an independent panel of experts recommended a drilling moratorium, even though it had not. Interior later apologized for the misrepresentation.
In the letter, Hastings said Interior had not given the committee all of Black’s documents regarding the moratorium.
“The Department’s continued refusal to turn over these documents is especially troubling when compared to recent disclosures in other high-profile investigations, including national security related information,” Hastings said.
Committee Republicans have expanded their Interior inquiries in recent weeks beyond the deepwater drilling ban.
The panel is also investigating whether the department dropped a review of renewable energy programs on federal lands that might have reflected poorly on the administration, among other items.
Hastings said Interior has stonewalled requests for Black’s correspondence regarding NextEra’s McCoy Solar Energy Project, a proposed project resting on 7,700 acres of federal land and 470 acres of private land in California.
“The Department’s Congressional affairs liaison has not told Committee majority oversight staff, despite repeated requests, when Mr. Black’s recusal documents will be provided. This delay is unacceptable,” Hastings said.