WASHINGTON — After clashing views over the issuance of drilling permits, Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, of New Iberia, will now meet with the U.S. Interior Department’s head of drilling regulation twice over the coming weeks.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Michael Bromwich has agreed to meet with Landry in the department’s New Orleans office. Bromwich also will testify on Thursday before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, on which Landry sits.
The two men recently exchanged letters over Landry’s comments that New Orleans office permit issuers acted like “the CIA and Gestapo.” Landry complained that he was turned away from the New Orleans office in a recent unannounced visit to inquire about the permitting process.
Louisiana congressional delegation members have been critical of Bromwich and the department for what they have called slow issuance of drilling permits since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster last year. They contend the delay is hurting industry workers living in Louisiana.
Bromwich, who is Jewish, took offense to the Gestapo reference and sent a letter to Landry demanding an apology to his workers and accusing Landry of defamation and slander.
Landry refused to apologize, saying he was looking out for his constituency.
After Landry’s comments, Bromwich canceled a meeting with him in New Orleans. A new meeting in New Orleans with Landry, Bromwich and other BOEM officials is now planned, Landry said.
Bromwich also will face Landry on Thursday when he testifies about the department’s recent report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In a probe conducted along with the U.S. Coast Guard, the department blamed BP for much of the failings that led to the catastrophe that killed 11 men and resulted in 4.9 million barrels of oil being discharged into the Gulf of Mexico over a three-month period.
Republicans head the committee and have called for increased drilling in the Gulf and other oceans off United States shores. They also have expressed concern about any new regulations, saying that other oil companies should not be penalized for the BP calamity.
Despite the agreement to a New Orleans meeting, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday chastised Landry for his recent comments.
“I don’t think it serves the country in any positive way,” Salazar said. “I don’t think that kind of hyperbole is helpful to anybody.”
In response to Salazar’s statements, Landry said Friday his chief concern has been whether permitting employees in New Orleans were being interfered with from Washington.
“Their continued inference that I attacked people or the work that they are trying to do is completely false,” Landry said in a statement. “My concern has always rested with trying to ensure politics has not interfered with the permitting process.”
Beginning Oct. 1, the department will have two offices overseeing the drilling industry. Bromwich was the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, called BOEMRE. He will now head the BOEM division.
A second agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, will begin today. Bromwich commended his former agency for its work in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and spill.
The division has increased safety and environmental protection associated with offshore drilling, Bromwich said.
“It has been 15 months packed with activity, progress and advances with real consequences,” Bromwich said.
Salazar indicated that he expects a tough hearing on Thursday.
“I think you’ll see some fireworks next week,” Salazar said.