Numerous congressional hearings have addressed a myriad of topics trying to assign responsibility and accountability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but one of the common themes has been Representatives and Senators asking various Department of the Interior officials what else they need—whether it be resources, reorganization, hiring authority, improved expertise, faster investigations to allow managers to act on misconduct. And at today's Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told them: revolving door reform.
Echoing POGO's concerns, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Secretary that he couldn't sign onto the proposed reforms to the Minerals Management Service (MMS)—now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOE)—unless they included closing the revolving door between oil and gas regulators and the oil and gas industry. To illustrate the problem, he referred to former MMS Director Randall Luthi lobbying then-MMS Director (now back to being director of the Bureau of Land Management) Bob Abbey on behalf of an offshore drilling trade organization as an emblematic example of how bad the problems at the agency are. Secretary Salazar agreed, and said that he would support a two-year revolving door ban for Interior's regulators, and even a lifetime ban in some cases.
Revolving door language is notably missing from the Senate's major reform legislation, but the Senate could easily help make Interior more effective** and help fix BOE if it passed Senators Robert Menendez's (D-NJ), Bill Nelson's (D-FL), and Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) Stop Cozy Relationships with Big Oil Act of 2010 (S. 3431), which includes a provision that would make violating a two-year revolving door ban a felony.
Check out this rad video of Senator Nelson explaining why the Senators introduced the bill:
You hear that? I think there's a consensus building that there needs to be a two-year cooling off period before government officials go work for the industry they're supposed to be regulating or overseeing. The federal government's response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster shouldn't just be evaluated by what the Coast Guard and the Interior Department do to take care of the leak: taxpayers should also evaluate the ability of their lawmakers to take lessons learned and ensure that the agency's responsible for preventing this kind of catastrophe have integrity.
-- Mandy Smithberger
**Or, as Senator Robert Menendez put it, "give the agency integrity"—he seemed to hesitate over whether to use the word "improve" before acknowledging that HA it's largely not there.