Last month, Congressman Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, publicly lambasted the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE, the former Minerals Management Service), which provides federal oversight on Gulf oil and gas drilling, including lease sales and permits for drilling. Landry's broadside came after director Michael Bromwich had to reschedule a meeting with Landry set for Sept. 30. In an interview with The Times-Picayune, Landry called the agency's practices "like the CIA and the Gestapo" — comments he later defended to Politico.com, saying, "I'm not going to get into this political niceness. You know, it's a fact. [Bromwich] is not allowing U.S. congressmen to visit their offices. There's something wrong with that."
Bromwich later responded, writing in a letter to Landry, "Your comparison of the minor inconvenience you experienced to the tactics and methods of the Nazi secret police is simply unacceptable from anyone, but especially from a public official."
That meeting with Bromwich and other officials was rescheduled for Oct. 11, and Landry brought along his GOP Senate cohort Sen. David Vitter, who shared the mic at a press conference/photo op immediately following the two-hour meeting. The conference was held steps away from the doors of the Elmwood building where BOEMRE has a local office. The meeting covered transparency issues between elected officials and BOEMRE, and the pair pushed for more production through a speedier permitting process for Gulf rigs.
Landry didn't back off his comparison of BOEMRE to the secret police force of Nazi Germany. "I simply had the opportunity to explain to them why I felt that there was some sort of top-secret experiment going on here," he said. Vitter later added, "We should be able to call in, we should be able to talk to people at a certain level. It doesn't have to be the lowest level ... but we should be able to have access to information (and) discussion with folks who know what's going on day-to-day with folks on the Gulf without spending two weeks jumping through hoops with a government relations office in Washington. Unfortunately, Director Bromwich is not prepared to agree."
In a statement sent to Gambit following the meeting, Bromwich wrote, "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. That is why I insisted that I be present for any meeting between elected officials and our career staff."
In their meeting with BOEMRE, Landry and Vitter did not address rig safety, the environment or fisheries protections. Asked about it at the press conference, Landry said, "What Sen. Vitter and I are doing today is trying to move domestic energy forward. It comes at no cost to the taxpayers, yet the job creation, the capability of job creation, is echoed throughout the entire country. You're looking for a job bill, this is one right here." — Alex Woodward