Louisiana Senator accuses Salazar, Bromwich of misleading public on number of pending permits

Amanda Carey Contributor
Font Size:

Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has sent a scathing letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich about pending permits for offshore drilling. In the letter, Vitter accused Salazar and Bromwich of misleading the public on the number of pending permits.

Vitter’s claim rests on a Department of Justice filing last week that said there are more permits waiting to be approved than Salazar and Bromwich have let on.

“Over the last several weeks and months, you have indicated publicly, before Congress, and privately to members, including myself, that there are only a handful of permits awaiting agency action,” Vitter wrote in his letter.

“It is a mathematical impossibility for your representations to be accurate, as well as the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate,” he added. “It is not possible for there to be ‘too few permits’ awaiting review, and simultaneously ‘too many’ permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic.”

Vitter’s letter comes just two weeks after Salazar testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that his agency has received only 47 shallow water permit applications in the last nine months. Of those, Salazar also said only seven deep-water permits were pending.

However, in a filing last week, DOJ warned of potential dangers from “re-prioritization [resulting] from the court’s orders” because there are, in fact, 270 shallow water permit applications and 52 deep-water applications pending.

As The Daily Caller previously reported, the reason it may appear that there is a low number of pending permits is because many are in limbo, waiting to be “deemed submitted” by BOEMRE and the Interior Department.

“There are applications made on a daily basis that aren’t being shown up on BOEMRE’s statistics for being submitted,” Jim Noe, senior vice president of Hercules Offshore, told TheDC at the time. “It’s disingenuous for Bromwich to point out relatively low number of pending permits for proof that there is low demand to drill.”

When contacted by TheDC, an Interior Department official explained the conflicting numbers by saying that the higher figure is due to the inclusion of Applications for Permit to Modify (APMs). The official went on to say that APMs are not traditionally used when discussing pending permits since they are not applications for new wells, just for modifications of old ones.