Today lawmakers answered POGO's call to investigate the role of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service's (MMS) in the Transocean Deepwater Horizon disaster.
As more information surrounding the Deepwater disaster becomes available, POGO and others in the press have raised questions about the ability of MMS to conduct oversight of drilling rigs. Of particular concern is that MMS:
Transocean a District Safety Award for Excellence (SAFE) in 2009.
Transocean won the award “for the
outstanding manner in which it conducted its drilling operations in
the Lafayette District during the rating period of January 1 through
December 31, 2008.”
potential violations of government safety standards in five out of 20
accident investigations it completed at BP offshore operations since
to the Houston Chronicle — but only
one incident resulted in a fine.
to bolster safety requirements
for a vital piece of drilling safety equipment involved in the
shear rams, after a 2004 study questioned whether the equipment would
function in deep-water seas. The
by WEST Engineering Services at the request of MMS.
to industry pressure to not pursue oil, gas, and coal royalties
to taxpayers under then-MMS Director
inspect federal leases, according to the Government Accountability
- Has a systemic
recently, former MMS Director Randall Luthi has become president of
the National Oceans Industries Association (NOIA), whose mission is
“to secure reliable access and
a favorable regulatory and economic environment for the companies that
develop the nation's valuable offshore energy resources in an
responsible manner.” Luthi succeeded Tom Fry, another former MMS
Director, as the president of NOIA.
- Was slow to develop
better practices for “cementing,” or installing casing to secure
the walls of a well. In 2006, MMS determined that the percentage of well
to cementing was
on the rise. The agency began to work with the American Petroleum
to develop new standards for cementing practices, but has
not completed its
work on the standards after four
years. Workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig were conducting cementing
procedures at the time of the accident.
As POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian noted in a statement today, "Taxpayers shouldn’t let Interior off the hook for this. Everyone knows that MMS’s coziness with industry resulted in the loss of billions of taxpayer dollars, but now we are seeing the even bigger impact of their lax regulation.”
POGO has been impressed by the government’s response to the disaster and hopes that this will begin a trend of improved oversight of taxpayers’ natural resources.
-- Mandy Smithberger and Bryan Rahija
You can find out more background on this issue over at our natural resources investigation page. See also: