Interior secretary requests offshore agency ethics probe

WASHINGTON Tue May 25, 2010 1:53pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday ordered an investigation of whether his agency failed to properly oversee the rig that caused the Gulf oil spill, in light of a new report revealing ethical lapses under prior administrations.

Interior's acting Inspector General Mary Kendall released details of an investigation Monday that found it was common before 2007 for Minerals Management Service employees at a Lake Charles, Louisiana district office to accept gifts from energy company representatives.

"This deeply disturbing report is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of MMS and the oil and gas industry," Salazar said in a statement.

The Interior Department has been criticized in recent weeks for not doing enough to prevent the explosion on Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig, which led to a ruptured undersea well that is spewing thousands of barrels oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Salazar said he has asked the inspector general to look into whether MMS employees adequately inspected and enforced standards on the Deepwater Horizon rig. He also asked the inspector to determine if the improper behavior outlined in the report has continued since he took over the department.

An inspector general report released in 2008 uncovered that MMS employees at another office received gifts, as well as used illegal drugs and had sex with workers from the oil companies they were supposed to oversee.

In response to this scandal, Salazar instituted new ethics rules when he took the helm of the department in 2009.

This latest report shed more light on the extremely close relationship some MMS employees have with the companies they regulate.

"Obviously, we're all oil industry," Lake Charles District Manager Larry Williamson said in the report. "Almost all of our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. Some of these people, they've been friends with all their life."

(Editing by Alden Bentley)

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Comments (3)
Dr.Z wrote:
I’m not sure what’s more deeply disturbing, the report, or the fact that Salazar claims that our gov’t being in bed with big oil is news to him and the feds. Sounds like BP’s promise to clean up “every drop of oil” when they can’t even turn off their own gusher (which isn’t just a “spill”). Seems we sold our gov’t to big business long ago.

In the meantime, life in the Gulf chokes in the gusher of oil…

And we still zoom around in our SUVs like our lifestyles aren’t causing this disaster…

May 25, 2010 2:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Opener wrote:
Here, here! People, it has never been cheaper or easier to buy solar or wind for your home or business. You don’t even have out of pocket costs with financing. You just immediately cut your energy bill by two-thirds to almost completely. It reduces the need for oil-powered generation and encourages other, better, renewable biofuels, fuel cells and a host of power sources that can replace oil over time. I look forward to the day when there is no news about American involvement in the middle east, except cultural exchange. America has done much harder things, people…we can do this…here…now! Let’s roll!!!

May 25, 2010 2:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
The citizens of Louisiana should start looking at their state and local officials who were cozy and benefactors of the off-shore oil business. Local officials were just as bought-off and negligent as any. La. already receives far more tax-receipt benefits from the Feds versus their contributions. And, their eternally ungrateful. Let them join Texas and cut them loose.

May 25, 2010 3:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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