House Panel OKs Subpoena of Obama Environmental Documents

Wednesday, 28 Mar 2012 03:27 PM

By Dan Weil

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The House Natural Resources Committee voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas for Obama administration documents concerning oil drilling and coal mining. The vote was 23-17 along party lines, Politico reports.

No subpoenas will be issued before the House’s two-week Easter recess, said committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash. Both investigations center on the Interior Department, but Hastings also can issue a subpoena to any other agency that may be involved, including the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The oil drilling subpoena focuses on an Interior Department study edited by the White House to give the impression that an independent panel of engineers supported the administration’s six-month drilling moratorium, Politico reports. After some panel members objected and the department’s inspector general investigated the issue, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apologized, calling the adjustment a “mistake.”

In the coal mining issue, congressmen want documents from the Interior Department’s continuing rewrite of the stream buffer zone rule, a coal mining regulation passed in 1983 to prevent rock, dirt and debris from mountaintop removal mining from being dumped into streams.

A revised version of the Stream Buffer Zone rule, enacted near the end of the Bush administration, loosened criteria to allow such dumping when other options were "not reasonably possible" or much more costly than normal.

Republicans have been concerned about the rewrite since an Associated Press report last year in which a contractor attributed big job losses to the rule, a claim the department has denied.


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