May 4, 2010

As The Hill noted Issa to probe regulation of BP:

The ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced today that he will investigate whether BP was improperly awarded safety certificates from the Interior Department.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said his staff will probe whether the Minerals and Management Service (MMS, the agency within Interior that has jurisdiction over offshore drilling) has established necessary safety regulations, and whether MMS "improperly awarded safety certifications to BP, Transocean, and the Deepwater Horizon rig."

"Reports indicate that the Deepwater Horizon appears to have had a faulty 'dead man' shut-off switch which, if functioning properly, could have averted this massive spill," Issa said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"The malfunctioning 'failsafe' device raises serious questions about any safety inspections or audits conducted by MMS or third parties during the certification process. This, in turn, casts serious doubt upon any safety awards that MMS may have granted to BP and/or Transocean within the past year."

The Democrats held a hearing on this back on Sept. 18 of 2008 which C-SPAN has available in their video archives. Jamie made this observation after seeing Rep. Issa's tweet today on the call for hearings.

Interesting how he has these concerns today. He claims they have been on MMS for “years”, but I wonder if he tried this push 4 years ago when he voted no against extending the moratorium on new offshore drilling? Just a quick look into Issa’s voting record shows that he has been a great friend to the oil and coal industry. Read on...

Here's the way the scandal was reported back in 2008. You'll notice this did not curtail the Republicans call for more off-shore drilling any more back then than is has now. Oil brokers sex scandal may affect drilling debate:

A scandal involving sex, drugs and - uh, offshore oil drilling.

It's a strange mix, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for those in Congress pressing to expand oil and gas development off America's beaches while trying to stave off an election-year rush by Democrats to impose new taxes and royalties on the oil industry.

An Interior Department investigation describing a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" by workers at the agency that issues offshore drilling leases and collects royalties hit lawmakers Wednesday just as they prepared for votes next week on expanding offshore drilling.

"On the eve of Congress starting this big debate you've got a horror story of mismanagement and misconduct in programs that are going to be a key part of the discussion," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in an interview, adding that it can't help but influence the debate.

...Between 2002 and 2006, 19 oil marketers - nearly a third of the Denver office staff - received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, including Chevron Corp., Shell, Hess Corp. and Denver-based Gary-Williams Energy Corp., the investigators found.

"Employees frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and natural gas company representatives" who referred to some of the government workers as the "MMS Chicks."

...Republicans and Democrats promised further scrutiny of the Interior Department agency which last year handled $4.3 billion in royalty-in-kind payments from energy companies drilling on federal lands. Under the program oil companies give the government oil in lieu of cash and the MMS office in turn sells the oil on the open market.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the IG report "raises very serious questions" about the royalty collection process, something especially troublesome "given the potential for expanded domestic drilling." He said some basic reforms in the royalty-in-kind program should be included in drilling legislation.

Wyden said the program should be suspended to "clean house" at the federal agency and "bring back the process of rigorous audits and accountability."

...But Republicans rejected suggestions that the scandal makes the need for more offshore oil and gas any less urgent.

...But House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused the Democrats of "trying to pull a hoax on the American people." He said the plan would result "in little or no new American energy production" because states would share no royalties and have little financial incentives to allow drilling.

More hearings... yeah, that's what we need. Those hearings weren't worth a hill of beans a year and a half ago and they won't change anything now. It's too bad Rep. Issa isn't as worried about the influence of money in his own branch of government as he is the Interior Department. Maybe Congress would have passed some more meaningful regulations on the industry. Investigate the Interior Department Congressman, but you'd better go back to how they behaved under the Bush administration and not just the last year. And if that is all you do it smells of scoring political points instead of making sure we don't have any more of these spills.

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