by Jim Nintzel
The Wall Street Journal reports on more troubles for the Minerals Management Service in Louisiana:
Employees of a federal agency that regulates offshore drilling—including some whose duties included inspecting offshore oil rigs—accepted sporting-event tickets, meals, and other gifts from oil and natural-gas companies and used government computers to view pornography, according to a new report by the Interior Department's inspector general.
The report—published Tuesday on the inspector general's website—describes a culture in which inspectors assigned to the Lake Charles, La., office of the Minerals Management Service have moved with "ease" between jobs in industry and government, drawing on relationships that formed "well before they took their jobs" with the agency.
Although the report says that "all of the conduct" examined in the report is "dated" and occurred prior to 2007, its publication comes at a sensitive time, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar scheduled to testify before Congress Wednesday on his plan to restructure the agency following the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The accident led to the deaths of 11 workers and to the spillage of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.
Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, responds:
“The Inspector General report released today highlights the ongoing failures of the Minerals Management Service, which is riddled with illegal drug use, bribery, and, worst of all, falsification of inspection reports crucial to ensuring the safe operation of drill rigs in our waters.
“MMS safety inspectors taking drugs on oil platforms is bad enough, but falsifying reports and allowing the industry to ghostwrite their inspections is completely outrageous.
“The report further exposes the revolving door with the oil
and gas industry, through which MMS employees seek high-paying jobs with industry. Most recently, Randall Luthi, the former director of the MMS, took over as president of the National Ocean Industries Association to, in the association’s words, ‘impact policies favorable to the offshore energy industry.’
“The extent of the culture of corruption in the MMS is mind boggling. Steps proposed to date by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to fix this dysfunctional organization do not come close to what is needed to root out the systematic corruption of the agency.”