WASHINGTON — Two Louisiana congressmen met with U.S. Interior Department oil drilling officials Tuesday, but U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said they did not walk away with a resolution to what they contend is the department’s slow pace of issuing drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.
This was the first meeting between Landry and Michael Bromwich, who is in charge of the federal permits, since the congressman likened the regulator’s office staff to the “Gestapo,” the Nazi police force.
The two will meet face-to-face again Wednesday at a House committee hearing.
Bromwich, director of the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said after the meeting in New Orleans that his workers will not bow to what he called “political influence.”
The Louisiana congressional delegation has criticized the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement for what they say is the slow pace of drilling permits being issued since the lifting of a six-month drilling moratorium after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster last year.
Bromwich canceled an initial meeting planned between the two last month after Landry’s Gestapo comment.
Bromwich accused Landry of defamation and slander.
Vitter has placed a hold on the nomination of the assistant secretary for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the department.
Vitter wants the agency to extend hundreds of Gulf of Mexico drilling leases set to expire this year.
Landry said he believed the meeting was a good first step in trying to bridge the gap between the department and its issuing more Gulf drilling permits, he said.
“We didn’t walk out of there with a box full of permits,” Landry said. “I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. I’m going to keep asking questions and demanding answers.”
Vitter issued a statement indicating the meeting will not result in him lifting the hold.
“Unfortunately, we just got the same old company line today that they’re working on extending leases and granting permits,” Vitter said.
Bromwich insisted on attending the meeting to defend his employees in the regional office, he said.
“Our career staff should not be placed in positions where they may feel they are being subjected to political influence, especially in connection with decisions on specific regulatory matters,” Bromwich said in a statement after the meeting.
The House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing Wednesday about what it calls the lingering impact of the offshore drilling moratorium imposed after the BP disaster.
Landry sits on the committee.
The BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 men and resulting in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest level in the nation’s history.