Inspector General reports detail MMS ethics violations during Bush admin.
And just to cap it off, this all started at the very beginning of the Bush Administration when in May of 2001 an executive order was issued short-cutting the MMS permits approval process to just 30 days. Via the New York Times
Inspector General found "a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies were widespread" in Louisiana MMS office under Bush. The Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated allegations against MMS employees for conduct that "occurred prior to 2007" in the Lake Charles, Louisiana, district, and "found a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies were widespread throughout that office," and that prior to 2007, "receiving gifts such as hunting trips, fishing trips, and meals from oil companies appears to have been a generally accepted practice by MMS inspectors and supervisors in the Gulf of Mexico region." MMS subsequently "provid[ed] additional ethics training to employees."
IG investigation found email porn, illegal drug use at Louisiana MMS office under Bush. The Lake Charles investigation also found that -- in addition to accepting gifts from oil companies-- MMS employees "admitted to using illegal drugs during their employment at MMS," including a clerical worker who said "he had used crystal methamphetamine the night prior to coming to work at MMS," and an inspector who "admitted that he might have been under the influence of the drug at work after using it the day before." Moreover, while reviewing MMS employees' email accounts "from 2005 to 2009," the OIG found "numerous instances of pornography and other inappropriate material on the e-mail accounts of 13 employees, six of whom have resigned."
IG: Bush MMS employee negotiated a job with drilling company while inspecting their platforms. The IG report states that a Lake Charles MMS employee, who now works for the Island Operating Company, an oil and gas production firm, negotiated a job with the company while inspecting IOC platforms.
Source told OIG that some Bush MMS inspectors allowed oil and gas companies to fill out their own inspection forms. From the May 24 report on the Lake Charles MMS office:
Another confidential source told investigators that some MMS inspectors had allowed oil and gas production company personnel located on the platform to fill out inspection forms. The forms would then be completed or signed by the inspector and turned in for review. According to the source, operating company personnel completed the inspection forms using pencils, and MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form.Inspector General: "Culture of ethical failure" at Colorado MMS office under Bush. The Office of Inspector General also issued a report on September 9, 2008, stating that several investigations uncovered a "culture of ethical failure" at the Lakewood, Colorado, MMS office. The report stated that "between 2002 and 2006, nearly 1/3 of the entire RIK [Royalties In Kind] staff socialized with, and received a wide array of gifts and gratuities from, oil and gas companies with whom RIK was conducting official business." In addition, the investigation found a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity in the RIK program - both within the program... and in consort with industry. Internally, several staff admitted to illegal drug use as well as illicit sexual encounters." The report further stated:
We reviewed a total of 556 files to look for any alteration of pencil and ink markings, notations, or signatures. We found a small number with pencil and ink variations; however, we could not discern if any fraudulent alterations were present on these forms.
Our investigation revealed that many RIK employees simply felt that federal government ethics standards and DOI policies were not applicable to them because of their "unique" role in MMS. When interviewed, many RIK employees said they felt that in order to effectively perform their official duties, they needed to interact in social settings with industry representatives to obtain "market intelligence." Some felt their free attendance at industry functions was an absolute necessity given that it was industry's practice to conduct business over lunch, dinner, and golf outings.In September 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans to end the royalty-in-kind program, which collected royalties in oil and gas, rather than cash.
One RIK employee opined that because RIK regularly paid a major producer to transport oil, it was perfectly appropriate for him to attend a "treasure hunt" in the desert with all expenses paid by the producer. Another RIK employee went so far as to say that RIK's goal was to be "part of industry."
Under Bush, MMS relaxed oversight of drilling, ignored safety warnings, downplayed oil spill concernsBush MMS adopted regulation stating drillers are "in the best position to determine the environmental effects of its proposed activity." The Washington Post reported on May 25 that the actions taken by MMS, "are shaped in part by a 2005 regulation it adopted that assumes oil and gas companies can best evaluate the environmental effects of their operations." The article stated that "[t]he rule governing which information the MMS should receive and review before signing off on drilling plans states: 'The lessee or operator is in the best position to determine the environmental effects of its proposed activity based on whether the operation is routine or non-routine.' " Rolling Stone magazine reported that these "new rules pre-qualified deep-sea drillers" to receive ... an exemption from environmental review," even though such exemptions were "originally intended to prevent minor projects, like outhouses on hiking trails, from being tied up in red tape."
In April 2008, Bush MMS loosened rules requiring blowout plan. The Associated Press reported on May 5 that a "rule change two years ago by the federal agency that regulates offshore oil rigs allowed BP to avoid filing a plan specifically for handling a major spill from an uncontrolled blowout at its Deepwater Horizon project." AP further reported: "The MMS rule change, made in April 2008, says that Gulf rig operators are required to file a blowout scenario only if one of five conditions applies. For example, an operator must provide a blowout scenario when it proposes to install a 'surface facility' in water deeper than 1,312 feet. While Deepwater Horizon was operating almost 5,000 feet below the surface, [BP spokesman William] Salvin said the project did not meet the definition of a surface facility. The MMS official agreed."
The 2000s....ushered in an era of aggressive, government-backed offshore oil production. In May 2001, Bush, acting on recommendations from the oil industry, signed an executive order that required federal agencies to expedite permits for energy projects and paved the way for greater domestic oil exploration.
Yes, you could argue that the Obama administration had their finger on the switch at the time of the DW Horizon disaster and they too share some of the blame - but you have to recognize that the MMS had been specifically disabled from properly doing their job - by the Bush Administration, and what we really need to blame Obama for is not FIXING THAT FAILURE FAST ENOUGH to prevent this disaster from occurring.
No matter how many times Republican Pundit argue that anyone who says Bush shares some of the blame for just "scapegoating" or that mentioning these facts are somehow "ridiculous and offensive" as Dana Perino has done, let's just go one step further and remind them that when they were in power they tried to blame 9-11 on Bill Clinton, and further claimed that No Terrorist Attacks Occurred Under George Bush.
The facts do not deflect all blame from President Obama - not hardly. But this reflexive need to protect and deflect blame from irresponsible corporations like BP, Enron, KBR, Goldman Sachs and Blackwater, and to burnish the tarnished legacy of George W. Bush in denial of all facts and reality is practically pathological.