Politico has published a report from the Inspector General of the Interior Department about the Minerals Management Service and their far-too-close relationship with the oil industry. All of the things discussed in the report took place prior to 2007, but it still provides an excellent picture of what goes on in regulatory agencies throughout the government.
The report includes employees of MMS taking rides to sporting events on private jets owned by the oil companies, the routine giving of expensive gifts to regulators by oil companies, including hunting and fishing trips. And all of this was at the Lake Charles MMS office — the one that handles the Gulf of Mexico directly.
Here’s one of the more serious problems uncovered in the report:
Finally, we determined that between June and July 2008, an MMS inspector conducted four inspections on IOC platforms while in the process of negotiating and later accepting employment with the company.
IOC is the Island Operating Company. And the people in charge regard this as routine and normal:
We showed MMS Lake Charles District Manager Larry Williamson nine photos named, “LSU football pictures,” that we discovered on a former MMS inspector’s computer. Williamson identified two MMS inspectors in the pictures, which showed tailgating festivities at the Peach Bowl game.
According to Williamson, many of the MMS inspectors had worked for the oil and gas industry and continued to be friends with industry representatives. “Obviously, we’re all oil industry,” he said. “We’re all from the same part of the country. Almost all of our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. They grew up in the same towns. Some of these people, they’ve been friends with all their life. They’ve been with these people since they were kids. They’ve hunted together. They fish together. They skeet shoot together ….They do this all the time.”
That 2005 Peach Bowl game was paid for by the oil company and the employees were flown to it on the company’s private jet. So we have people from the oil companies working as regulators, accepting expensive gifts from those companies, not complying with ethics requirements to report those gifts, and then negotiating new jobs with the oil companies after they leave their government job.
Gosh, I can’t imagine how an oil company gets waivers from environmental regulations, can you?