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LEASES UPON NAVAL OIL RESERVES
LEASES UPON NAVAL OIL RESERVES.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 1923.
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to the call of the chairman, at 10 o'clock a. m., in room 210, Senate Office Building, Hon. Reed Smoot, chairman, presiding.
Present: Senators Smoot, Norris, Lenroot, Ladd, Jones of New Mexico, Kendrick, and Walsh of Montana.
The CHAIRMAN. If the committee will come to order we will proceed with the hearings.
Senator Walsh of Montana. Mr. Chairman, before proceeding with the examination of witnesses, I desire to call the attention of the committee to some documents which I found, after the adjournment, in the supplementary documents transmitted to us at the request of the committee after the hearings commenced. I am told, Mr. Custodian, that those have all gone back to the department?
Mr. MILLRICK. Yes; they have.
Senator WALSH. Meanwhile, I will assume that they are here, Mr. Chairman, and advise you that I found in the papers the following:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BUREAT OF MINES,
Washington, August 15, 1922. Memorandum for the Secretary. ,
Attached letter from Mr. J. 0. Lewis advises Secretary that Mr. Lewis, former chief petroleum technologist, is in sympathy with Secretary's plans in naval reserve.
A. W. AMBROSE.
BUREAU OF MINES,
August 16, 1922. Vemorandum for the Secretary.
Please find attached a copy of a letter from Mr, J. 0. Lewis to Mr. A. W. Ambrose.
Mr. Lewis was, as you know, former chief petroleum technologist of the Bureau of Mines. He is very conservative, a clear thinker, and a true conservationist. His letter was, of course, entirely unsolicited and he had no knowledge that it would be called to your attention, but I thought you would be interested in his views.
H. FOSTER Baix, Director. Here is another letter [reading]:
MARIETTA, August 1, 1922. DEAR PETE: Many thanks for the Secretary's message. I had not seen it before and I have read it over with interest. He sure gives me a nice mention.
The more I have thought about it, the more I have been impressed with the good sense of the Navy wanting their reserve above ground. As a matter of fact the Teapot can not be called a reserve until the test wells have shown whether oil is actually there and about in what quantities. Even then it is not a reserve of fuel for the Navy but must be produce I and refined. It would take about five to ten years to extract the major portion and then it would have to be refined and transported to tidewater. The only certain and immediate reserve is fuel oil in above-ground storage at needed points. However the others may argue that the necessities for such storage could be gained by reserves 1 and 2. With best regards,
J. 0. L. Senator LENROOT. Senator Walsh, did Secretary Fall make some reference to him in his letter?
Senator WALSH. Yes. He refers to the fact that Mr. J. O. Lewis, once associated with the Bureau of Mines, had written a bulletin on the migration of oil.
On discovering these documents in the files I addressed a letter to Mr. Lewis, of which the following is a copy:
NOVEMBER 5, 1923. Mr. J. O. LEWIS, Marietta, Ohio.
DEAR SIR: I am astonished beyond expression to learn that there are among the files of the Interior Department documents of which copies are herewith transmitted. Before putting them in the record of the hearing before the committee, I am eager to have any explanation you may care to make as to how, in view of the inquiries made of you before you took employment with the committee, having written the letter to which your attention is called, you felt justified in accepting that employment. Of course I am constrained, whatever your explanation may be, to put the documents in the record, together with such communications as may have passed between you and any members of the committee having for their purpose on its part to determine your entire impartiality in respect to the matter to be investigated. Very truly yours,
T. J. WALSH.
I received from Mr. Lewis the following telegram:
St. Louis, Mo., November 13. Senator THOMAS J. WALSH,
421 Senate Ofice Building. Your letter fifth just received. Letter follows.
JAMES 0. LEWIS. The following is the letter (reading]:
NOVEMBER 15, 1923. Senator THOMAS J. WALSH,
Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: Answering your letter of November 5, my letter of August 1, 1922, addressed to Mr. A. W. Ambrose, then chief petroleum technologist of the Bureau of Mines, is exactly what it appears to be a personal letter acknowledging a courtesy that contains the usual badinage. That other use and construction was made of it was without my intention and consent and for this I am not responsible.
To require that an expert had never given thought nor expressed opinion on the broad policies of the naval petroleum reserves which have been subjects of discussion for many years, would obviously exclude every competent professional man in this country.
The matters of general policy referred to in my letter I have never considered as coming within the scope of my investigation, and you will note in my report to the committee that such subjects are only incidentally referred to. My instructions were to investigate and to report upon the technical subjects of, first, the extent to which naval reserve No. 3 had been endangered prior to the leasing of the reserve, and secondly, the apparent worth of the reserve at the time that my investigation was made. My letter represents processes of thouxht rather than final conclusions and my open-mindedness is evidenced by the last sentence thereof. Please bear in mind these thoughts were expressed before drilling had disclosed the worth of the reserve and long before I was aware that the employment of geologists was being contemplated. I fail to see any reason for taking exception to my letter. Very truly yours,
JAMES 0. LEWIS. To that letter I replied as follows:
NOVEMBER 17, 1923. Vr. JAMES 0. LEWIS, Marietta, Ohio.
DEAR SIR: I can not believe you are so dull of intellect as to have mis conceived the nature of the criticism of you implied in my former letter, I made no complaint about your communication to Mr. Ambrose nor of any use that was made of it, appropriate or inappropriate. The letter does you no discredit nor is any blame to be attached to Jr. Ambrose for having transmitted it to his superior officers. You could not have failed to understand that what I would like to hear from you about is how, having written the letter in which you unequivocally committed yourself in favor of the Teapot Dome, you then accepted employment from the committee whom you knew were seeking the services of geologists whose minds were at least open to the general merits or demerits of the action taken. For the same reason it is of no consequence what your instructions were; they came after your employment. If, under these circumstances, you see nothing unethical in engaging in the work for which you were employed, you are simply hopeless. It is a matter of minor consequence, and perhaps of no consequence to you, that you have exposed the committee to the severest criticism for having engaged an expert who had, in advance, expressed himself, in a general way at least, in approval of the action the committee was called upon to investigate. It will be difficult to disposses many people of the idea that the committee did not knowingly select an advocate of or an apologist for the disposition of the reserres.
Very truly yours,
At the opening of the hearings the chairman of the committee informed the committee of the pains to which the subcommittee charged with the duty of employing these geologists went for the purpose of securing men whom in their judgment at least were entirely impartial in the matter. Mr. Chairman, I think that there were some telegrams sent to both of these geologists with a view to getting an expression from them as to whether they had any definite opinions upon the subjects under investigation.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, as I remember it, Senator Walsh, we had them here and questioned both of them before ever they were employed. Then we gave them a letter of instructions, which is found in volume 1.
Senator LENROOT. Mr. Chairman, preliminary to that: We sent them telegrams asking if they had any connection, past or present, with the matter.
The CHAIRMAN. That was the first action taken.