The Landry-Bromwich Feud Blows Up

What follows is a press release out of Rep. Jeff Landry’s office covering the latest in what is becoming a red-hot controversy on Capitol Hill between the Congressman and Michael Bromwich, the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), which sparked up last week after Landry was given the runaround by BOEMRE over stalled permits for Gulf drilling…

During his testimony, Bromwich cited a Wall Street Journal article Thursday that suggested permitting activity in the Gulf is approaching pre-BP spill levels.

But Reps Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and John Fleming, R-Minden, expressed skepticism, saying they are hearing a much different story from Louisiana industry representatives.

Still, the hearing had few of the hostile confrontations, particularly between Landry and Bromwich, that have marked previous energy hearings conducted by the new GOP majority.

Landry told Bromwich that it should come as no surprise to him that he wants to fulfill PresidentBarack Obama’s goal of more hiring and that, in his view, a key to accomplishing that would be for Bromwich’s agency to issue more permits.

Bromwich said he was happy to save Landry some time from his five-minute questioning block and “stipulate” that Landry advocates for a more robust permitting regime.

But in an interview after his questioning of Bromwich, the freshman Republican accused BOEMRE of acting “like the CIA and Gestapo” as he recounted how he was recently blocked from visiting the bureau’s New Orleans office.

Landry said he had to wait 20 minutes in the lobby for an agency official to come down and inform him that the top officials in the office weren’t in the office and that he would have to return another time. Landry said he wanted to learn about some stalled permits brought to his attention by a constituent.

He said he wasn’t given access to the employee overseeing the permits. Landry said he eventually received a copy of the agency’s staff telephone directory, but only after he threatened to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

And now, today’s Landry release…

After being denied access to the New Orleans office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and later being informed that a scheduled meeting with them has been cancelled, Congressman Jeff Landry (R, LA-03) sent a letter to BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich. The letter outlines Landry’s efforts to provide the taxpayers a full oversight of BOEMRE.

“While I understand that for many years other Members of Congress have sat idly while Washington bureaucrats have attempted to rule over citizens, I will not allow it. The people of  South Louisiana sent me to Congress to do a job and part of that job is to provide oversight to ensure that taxpayer funded offices are indeed completing the functions for which they were created.  I intend to fulfill this mission,” Landry wrote to Bromwich.

Landry – who was denied access to the BOEMRE office in New Orleans on September 2, 2011 – is hopeful the letter will reverse Bromwich’s decision to cancel their scheduled meeting: “There is no excuse for continued anti-transparency from this government agency. The hard-working people of the Gulf Coast deserve to have an open, honest office assisting them get back to work. I will again go to the BOEMRE headquarters at the end of the month. I hope this time they will let me in.”

The full text of Congressman Landry’s letter is below:

September 20, 2011
The Honorable Michael R. Bromwich
Director
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Director Bromwich,

I have received with great regret your letter dated September 19, 2011, in which you attempted to persuade employees of your local field office that I had concerns with their work product.  This is incorrect.  You also attempted to completely mischaracterize my comments.   It was my concern that these employees are not being allowed to do their job which drove me to visit the New Orleans office.

Your politically charged letter only seeks to further raise the concerns I have regarding your motivations on issues vital to South Louisiana and energy for the American people.  After our exchange during the Committee hearing last week, which I felt was cordial and productive, I am even further dismayed.

I traveled extensively throughout South Louisiana during the August Congressional recess.  On several occasions, I attended open forums to allow the people of the great State of Louisiana an opportunity to voice their frustrations. The lack of permitting in the Gulf of Mexico came up often as one of those frustrations.

In one meeting I attended with United States Senator David Vitter, a gentleman questioned whether or not I knew the New Orleans office had Department of Justice lawyers looking over the shoulders of permitting engineers.  This did not seem to be in keeping with the intended purpose of your agency; and, as a result, I had hoped that your engineers might be able to shed light on this problem.

In order to assess what was keeping employees in the Gulf of Mexico Regional Office from doing their job, I took an action appropriate to the level of accountability my constituents deserve: I visited the office unannounced and requested to speak with a staff member who would be able to address this issue.  When I was asked to wait for 20 minutes and – ultimately – was never given a meeting with someone who could address my concerns, I was deeply disappointed.

As my constituents still have concerns, I believe that an office visit is even more necessary and appropriate.  Furthermore, as I did not and have never taken issue with any specific employees of BOEMRE other than perceived lack of truthfulness or responsiveness coming from your headquarters in Washington, I feel there is no reason to deny my request to visit the New Orleans office.  As such, I will be there next week.

What has our country become when a sitting Member of Congress cannot simply visit a Federal office or speak to federal employees without approval of their bosses sitting in Washington?  If a Member of Congress can’t visit your office, how do you treat other taxpaying citizens?  Based on the concerns I am hearing in my District, I think we know the answer.

While I understand that for many years other Members of Congress have sat idly while Washington bureaucrats have attempted to rule over citizens, I will not allow it. The people of  South Louisiana sent me to Congress to do a job and part of that job is to provide oversight to ensure that taxpayer funded offices are indeed completing the functions for which they were created.  I intend to fulfill this mission.

If there is any apology necessary, it would be from you to me and – more importantly – to the hard-working people of South Louisiana, many of whom are now unemployed as a result of decisions from your agency.  They and their families have drilled over 40,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico while plying a dangerous trade for decades.  Yet you have chosen to make them suffer.

Your job is to rightfully hold BP accountable, enforce the laws on the books, and ensure accountability to the people who pay your salary.

As such, the people of my District await your response.

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