Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform held a hearing to discuss reforms to the Interior Department and the Minerals Management Service (MMS), Interior's beleaguered agency responsible for offshore drilling. Some key takeaways:
- A consensus is emerging: the revolving door is a big problem.
- Interior's acting inspector general, Mary L. Kendall,
is concerned about holes in Interior's ethics rules,
particularly when it comes to gifts.
- Michael Bromwich, the new head of the MMS, promised that he will not contact the agency after he leaves.
- Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) expressed interest in the concept of a consolidated federal audit agency, perhaps akin to the idea POGO proposed earlier this year.
- Slowing down the revolving door between the industry and its government regulators in the Interior Department,
- ending Interior’s partnership with industry,
- ensuring that inspectors have adequate training and expertise to conduct effective oversight, and
that reforms dig deep and address the cultural problems that beset
Danielle also mentioned some alarming new anecdotes POGO has unearthed—though MMS has been rechristened as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), lasting change has yet to take hold in the agency:
[E]ven after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, inspector concerns are being ignored.
For example, an MMS inspector was alarmed when he discovered that a deep-water production facility (or SPAR) was operating days after he had issued a cease and desist order during a congressionally mandated inspection. When the inspector contacted his Supervisor in order to gain approval to issue another cease and desist order and possibly forward the offense for Civil Penalty because the SPAR was operating in what he believed was in dangerous noncompliance, his Supervisor overruled him.
And this is in the wake of the Gulf crisis.
This incident is not unique, but has become the norm where inspectors feel they need to ask permission from their Supervisors because they are more likely to get in trouble for issuing an Incident of Noncompliance (INC), than for not issuing one. This is where the real work will have to happen—changing that culture.
You can find out more in the transcript of Danielle's testimony, or relive the magic by watching C-SPAN's footage of her testimony below the jump: