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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Big Oil's "Cozy Relationship" with Inspectors. Government inspectors at the dysfunctional Minerals Management Service (the MMS; now BOEMRE) were often little more than consorts of the industry they regulated, according to the Inspector General

Big Oil's "Cozy Relationship" with Inspectors

Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News, May 26, 2010
(CBS)  The Deepwater Horizon exploded five weeks ago. It was one of about 3,500 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf regulated by the Minerals Management Service. President Obama has complained about the agency's "cozy relationship" with the oil industry, and a new report issued Tuesday reveals just how cozy.

Government inspectors at the dysfunctional Minerals Management Service (MMS) were often little more than consorts of the industry they regulated, according to the Inspector General.

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports inspectors even went so far as to let oil companies literally fill out their own inspection reports using pencils. MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form.

Read the Inspector General Report

MMS is also supposed to investigate accidents and "make recommendations to prevent their recurrence." But we dug thru reports involving BP or Transocean dating back to 2006. In every case but one, MMS made no recommendations at all.

"Too cozy of a relationship," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. "In many cases, criminal activity by getting too close and taking favors from the industry."

The cozy ties included workers who moved between industry and government jobs "with ease" -- friends who've "often known each other since childhood."

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

MMS staffers accepted gifts from their oil industry friends -- trips to the Peach Bowl, invitations to skeet shooting, crawfish boils and hunting and fishing vacations. One employee inspected a company four times while negotiating a job there. Another may have been on crystal meth while he was conducting an inspection. Others had inappropriate humor and porn on their government computers.

With possibly months to go before the gusher is plugged, there's more wrangling over liability. On Capitol Hill, outrage was directed at the rig's owner, Transocean. It plans to pay out a billion dollars in dividends to shareholders.

"They want to give a billion dollars back to their shareholders at a time when I think there might be very substantial liability questions," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

"For a company that said it did nothing wrong, this company is working pretty hard to insulate itself from being held responsible," said Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Assistant Attorney General Pirelli reminded Congress that BP has promised to pay all the bills.

"You may be the last person in America who trust or believe what BP says," responded Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The Obama administration has already announced plans to fix MMS. The misconduct happened before 2009. But now the Inspector General will look into conduct since 2009.

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