The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is enormous and will have an untold impact on our economy and environment. This tragedy could have been avoided. What a shame. There should be hell to pay by those charged with overseeing the oil industry.

Where were the regulators? A statement released just yesterday by the Department of Interior highlights evidence that the regulation of our oil industry in the Gulf has been quite incestuous. What’s a little incest without throwing in a healthy dose of sex, drugs, and football as well?

Wow. You can’t make this stuff up. The Project on Government Oversight addresses the issues em’bedded’ in the relationship between oil regulators and the industry in writing, MMS District Manager to IG: “Obviously, We’re All Oil Industry”:

This morning the Interior Department Inspector General’s released a report on the investigation into the Lake Charles District office of the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Ian Urbina’s New York Times story covers the essentials about how regulators did crystal meth, accepted gifts and trips from industry, and allowed industry to draft their own inspection reports in pencil.

Here at POGO, we’re referring to the report as “Interior Sex and Drugs 2.0,” though to be fair, only the Royalty-In-Kind staff in Lakewood, Colorado were literally in bed with industry. The IG only found “inappropriate humor and pornography” at Lake Charles.

release dated yesterday from the Department of Interior highlights the nature of the relationship between regulators and the oil industry.

Of greatest concern to me is the environment in which these inspectors operate — particularly the ease with which they move between industry and government. While not included in our report, we discovered that the individuals involved in the fraternizing and gift exchange — both government and industry — have often known one another since childhood.

Their relationships were formed well before they took their jobs with industry or government. MMS relies on the ability to hire employees with industry experience. I am pleased that MMS has advised us that it will enhance ethics training specifically for its inspectors to address this unique industry/government dilemma, and will establish controls, like a two year waiting period, to minimize the potential for conflicts of interest.

In the same release but from an April 12th Department of Interior statement, we learn more salacious details:

Two employees at the Lake Charles office also admitted to using illegal drugs during their employment at MMS. We found that many of the inspectors had e-mails that contained inappropriate humor and pornography on their government computers. Finally, we determined that between June and July 2008, one MMS inspector conducted four inspections of IOC platforms while in the process of negotiating and later accepting employment with that company.

In an investigation completed March 31, 2010 (and included in yesterday’s release), we learn of more incriminating details in this incestuous relationship, including:

During our investigation, we reviewed hundreds of e-mails and financial disclosure reports from MMS employees. We also interviewed 15 MMS inspectors and supervisors. We developed confidential sources during our investigation, who provided additional information pertaining to MMS employees at the Lake Charles District Office, including acceptance of a trip to the 2005 Peach Bowl game that was paid for by an oil and gas company; illicit drug use; misuse of government computers; and inspection report falsification.

If I didn’t know the report was produced by the Department of Interior in review of the oil industry, I would have sworn these activities were highlighting the regulatory oversight of Wall Street.

Think there were kickbacks going on here as well? You think??!!

Meanwhile, the oil at the floor of the Gulf of Mexico gushes and the costs to our economy and our country escalate.

When will it all end?


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  • BP

    All of that happened under the Bush years. It is going to take years to undo the damage created by the Bush Adminstration. Some of those daming reports actually came out a few years ago, but were largely ignored by Bush 

    Salazar was put in there to try and clean up this mess at the regulators. Apparently he is now cleaning house.

  • sowsear

    It’s not my job to drive the train, 
    The whistle I cannot blow. 
    It’s not my job to say how far 
    The train’s allowed to go. 
    It’s not my job to blow the horn, 
    Nor even clang the bell. 
    But let the damn thing jump the track 
    And see who catches hell.

  • AC

    Tango wrote ” if they would just do their job” Occam’s Razor strikes again.

  • helenk

    FF at uppity woman posted this during the primaries. It seems she could see ahead.



  • susiepuma

    Well okay – here’s something else to chew on;

    A few days ago, Hillbuzz – a group of gay guys in Chicago who were formerly workers for Hillary and have become supporters of Sarah Palin, posted an essay about reporters questioning Man’s Country – a gay bathhouse located in Boystown in Chicago –

    Well, just saw this:

    Draw your own conclusions…………………..

  • surfered

    The oil industry, finance industry, defense contracting and everything else went unregulated during the Bush years.  It was ideological for them.  They bought what Ronald Reagan was selling: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m here from the government and I’m here to help.”

    It’s ironic that they are now screaming for the government’s help with the oil spill.  A saner philosopy would be: “If taxpayers have to pay for the train wreck, then they have bought the right to regulate the railroad.

  • Diana L. C.

    susiepuma, one of my favorite little short pieces by Mark Twain was about his learning the term”lagniappe” while visiting New Orleans.

  • susiepuma

    I’m not sure why people are surprised at the corruption – come on – NOLA is fun & is a party city but this is still Louisiana – their politics rate on a corruption level right up there with Illinois & has for years – they have been given a pass (kinda) since Katrina but hey – what’s the term they use besides Laissez les bons temps rouler – oh yeah  – lagniappe

      Lagniappe derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, “the gift,” and ultimately from Quechua yapay, “to give more.” The word came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean “an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.”

  • Diana L. C.

    I wonder if these incestuous types of relationships in government agencies has anything to do with the newer ideas about how to be good managers?

    I remember a time about twenty years ago when my uncle was given a management position and told explicitly that one of the requirements was that he NOT socialize with his employees so as not to create an atmosphere of favoritism.  They told him it might appear to be a harsh requirement, but the upper management did not want emotional ties to interfere with making good management decisions.

    Nowadays (I recently worked with a management training department), I noticed the shift is to making “team players” out of everyone, to basically making the workplace a “fun” place, to becoming your employees’ friends, etc.

    In my opinion, these ideas foster the attitude that playing on the job is the right thing to do, that there should be no perceived boundaries between those who manage and those who are managed.  Work becomes a social club rather than a professional environment.  

    I know too that by expressing this point of view, I run up against a new theory in management circles that each generation needs to be managed differently–that us Boomers need to be handled differently from the Gen-x generation, etc.  And yes, there are good and bad general characteristics of each generation.  But ultimately managing should still be focused on doing the job that is outlined in the job descriptions as efficiently and EFFECTIVELY as possible.

    I don’t like it.  I wanted my boss to be my boss.  I wanted his/her decisions to be fair without any suspicion that his/her decisions were based on a close outside relationship with an employee.

    Again, I recommend the book The Rise and Fall of Social Psychology by Augustine Brannigan.  Brannigan really does a good job of explaining why much of the “accepted” truths in sociology and psychology are based on faulty research practices.

  • sowsear
  • sowsear
  • Peggy Sue

    There have been reports for weeks that the fishermen hired on the cleanup crews were reporting nausea, dizzyness and coughing up gobs of junk.  It really reminds me of the 9/11 responders.  No one knows [or is willing to say] what long-term effects the widespread ocean burns, gobs of incoming oil muck or disperants have on human health.  There was also a report two-weeks ago that the air quality along certain beaches and shore points was being compromised.  The report concluded that it was not unreasonable to expect evacuations of the elderly, the very young and anyone suffering with a respiratory ailment in the near future.

    Scary stuff!

  • sowsear
  • sowsear

    and why doesn’t the buck stop at the top?

  • helenk

    I saw a headling on breaking news
    Elizabeth Birnbaum director of US MM fired.
    When I found this story



  • tango

    That’s what pisses me off. Congress and the Senate (at both Federal and state levels) freak out and blame companies when the blame should also be directed towards those regulating and policing agencies that have fraudulently and incompetently disregarded their duties. Then citizens demand change and so more regulations are put in place, more government agencies are established, more employees are hired costing tax payers more money and still nothing really changes.  I think sometimes we have plenty of laws, regulations and employees in place to stop and solve these kinds of problems if they would just do their job.

    When all those idiots at the SEC could surf and download porn for hours a day and not one of them was fired then that proves how corrupt our government is at policing themselves properly.  And if they can’t police themselves and punish obviously bad, illegal or immoral behavior, why do we expect them to police others?   Just makes me so angry.

  • Docelder

    We are morphing into Mexico. Ever go there, but not to the tourist areas? Tourist areas are nice and they hide reality. But get away from the tourist areas and you see mansions with 10 foot walls with broken glass set in concrete along the tops of those walls. You see a nation of peasants and a ruling class that takes everything for themselves. You see a corrutp government bought off by the ruling class. Mexico. We are morphing. A lot of us wonder why Mexicans never revolted? Why don’t we?

  • helenk

    People will die an entire section of the USA will be ruined for years because of the lazy do-nothings just collecting a check and perks and bribes.
    They not only need to be fired they need to be jailed.
    There has to be a massive cleanout of government employee and management who are incompentent and thieves.
    Close enough for government work is no long acceptable.



  • Peggy Sue

    When I started reading the reports, I thought the same thing: the sad and weird similarity to the Wall St fiasco.  Enough to make your head explode.  And enough, I would think, to make people realize that the corruption, the rot is systemic.  That’s the scary part because routing it out will be very painful and there’s the risk the patient [the country] could die on the table.  This infection is decades old, and there are no quick, easy fixes. 

    Where will it end?  God knows.  But it doesn’t look good for any of us. The loss in the Gulf is mindboggling and immeasurable. Enough to make you weep. 

  • Patience

    And now in light of the Gulf disaster, as is the usual MO I bet even more do-nothing bureaucracy will be instituted.

    You’re right about regulatory oversight LD, unfortunately this all sounds too familiar.  Nice work if you can get it.

  • Diana L. C.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I think others will agree.  It’s happening in all government agencies both national, state, and local.  Makes a person’s stomach turn.