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Posts Tagged ‘MMS’

If you’ve already had breakfast this morning, I’d advise that you skip Juliet Eilperin’s and Scott Higham’s piece in today’s WaPo on “How the Minerals Management Service’s partnership with industry led to failure.” It really will make you sick to your stomach.

Before the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, you probably never heard of the obscure Minerals Management Services, the former federal agency that until recently was charged with regulating offshore drilling leases. Now we know that  during its sordid 28-year history the agency was more facilitator than regulator. From the WaPo:

Top officials and front-line workers routinely referred to the companies under their watch as “clients,” “customers” and especially “partners.” As the relationship became more intertwined, regulatory intensity subsided. MMS officials waived hundreds of environmental reviews and did not aggressively pursue companies for equipment failures. They also participated in studies financed and dominated by industry, more as collaborator than regulator. In the face of industry opposition, MMS abandoned proposals that would have increased costs but might have improved safety.

Here’s one thing I didn’t know about the MMS, though it now makes perfect sense: the agency was created in 1982 by (more…)

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We’ve said time and again that the revolving door between the federal government and the industries they work with is spinning out of control. Well, between the government and the oil and gas industry, it’s spinning even crazier than ever.

The Washington Post wrote today that three out of every four — that’s right, 75 percent — oil and gas lobbyists worked for the federal government before switching over to the industry side of things.

Key lobbying hires include 18 former members of Congress and dozens of former presidential appointees. For other senior management positions, the industry employs two former directors of the Minerals Management Service, the since-renamed agency that regulates the industry, and several top officials from the Bush White House. Federal inspectors once assigned to monitor oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have landed jobs with the companies they regulated.

Looking at BP’s lobbyists alone, 71 percent previously worked for the federal government, according to data released in June by Public Citizen and the Center for Responsive Politics.

No wonder there was such a cozy relationship that Big Oil was able to manipulate the former Minerals and Management Service (MMS) into getting just what they want: lax regulation.

Although it seems to be the worst with the oil and gas industry, it tends to be a trend among others, as well. The Center for Responsive Politics found that fewer than one in three registered lobbyists in 2009 had revolving door connections — less than half the oil industry rate.

Currently, 12 senators and 35 representatives are not seeking re-election to their current offices. Where will they work next? Help us make sure they don’t head for the private-sector industry they’ve already gotten to know so well.

Sign Public Citizen’s petition to stop the revolving door between government and industry.

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Out of sight, out of mind will not work in this situation. We are just starting to see the effects on wildlife stemming from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What’s worse? What we aren’t seeing.

On Good Morning America, Phillipe Cousteau, grandson of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, dove 25 feet below the water’s surface in the Gulf. His report was astonishing, calling the situation a nightmare. Cousteau said that the chemical dispersants aren’t working — only breaking the oil up into little droplets that animals can more easily absorb or eat. Devastating.

The stuff we are seeing isn’t too great, either. From today’s Washington Post:

“Now that the stuff is really sort of coming ashore, it really is living up to its potential. It’s certainly breached the sort of outer defense system of Louisiana,” said James H. Cowan Jr., a professor at Louisiana State University. “It’s the very worst-case scenario, for things like birds and mammals.”

The Post also reports that members of the Minerals Management Service had been accepting gifts from oil companies. How’s that for regulation and enforcement? Big Oil isn’t just stopping at the executive branch. The director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Tyson Slocum, was quoted in this NPR story about Big Oil’s lobbying efforts post-spill:

“Big Oil’s legislative agenda is still able to function, even after a devastating event like we’ve got going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now,” Slocum said.

Looks like We, the People will have to take this into our own hands. Forget Beyond Petroleum, let’s get Beyond BP. Join our boycott of the oil company. 1,000,000 to boycott BP. Sign the petition, join us on Facebook and tell your friends. (We’re featured in this NPR story about the boycott, too.)

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Happy anniversary, BP.

It has been exactly one month since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig started a full-force environmental crisis. And yet, officials still have no effective solution to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and we are no closer to an organization (whether it be BP, Transocean, Halliburton or the Minerals Management Service) owning up to the responsibility of the spill.

To learn what we have learned during this month, check out Public Citizen Energy Program’s blog, and especially Tyson Slocum’s post today on the one-month anniversary.

As an anniversary gift, how about a solution? No need for a gift receipt.

If we don’t get a solution, BP can consider itself sleeping on the couch, as we gain support in our boycott against the oil company. Sign the petition. Join the Facebook group. Tell a friend.

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Sometimes it takes an accident to force government agencies into doing their job. But do we really need to have an accident for each agency that needs to step up its enforcement? The government needs more oversight and enforcement powers, Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz yesterday and Howard Kurtz points out in today’s WaPo. He’s right. Many government agencies have failed to predict problems that should have been pretty obvious to those in the field.

Consider:

  • The Minerals Management Service (MMS) allowed companies to drill for oil without the necessary permits. BP, the company responsible for the thousands upon thousands of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, was just one of them. Now 11 workers are dead, oil is coating ocean wildlife and tar balls are beginning to make their way to shore. Countless workers helping to clean up this mess are risking their health, as well. Where was the oversight?
  • The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MHSA) failed to enforce workers’ safety and let thousands of violations stay in limbo while companies appealed; in the meantime, employees’ safety was still being jeopardized. What did we get? An explosion in a West Virginia mine, leaving 29 dead. Massey Energy had been issued two citations that very day. Where was the enforcement?

These are just two examples of government failing to prevent a problem. As Kurtz said:

Is there a single Washington agency that was found to have done its job well in recent years? The SEC was asleep at the switch during the Bernie Madoff swindle and other financial scams (perhaps because some staffers were busy watching porn). The banking agencies let the big Wall Street firms flood the market with junk loans, shaky derivatives and other useless paper. NHTSA was horribly slow in cracking down on Toyota acceleration problems. The Mine Safety and Health Administration couldn’t enforce its own citations before the explosion that killed more than two dozen at Massey Energy’s West Virginia mine. And we all remember FEMA in New Orleans.

Let’s hope the agencies can get with the program before the next big accident happens.

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