Obama to sever ties between drilling cops and Big Oil
As oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration moves to break up the agency tasked with both collecting royalties and policing Big Oil.
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A long-term investigation led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California into MMS has uncovered abuses dating back to the Clinton administration and which continued through the Bush and Obama White Houses. And Sen. Ben Nelson raised eyebrows this week when he brought up a series of 2008 revelations about sex and "pot parties" among MMS regulators and industry executives. Moreover, MMS collects $13 billion in lease royalties a year while amassing an increasingly spotty record on policing Big Oil on safety issues.
"While there are many outstanding questions surrounding what went wrong and what should have been done to avoid this disaster," Mr. Issa said Tuesday, "what we know for sure is that MMS is in need of a surgical overhaul and that a quick-fix, band-aid approach is wholly inadequate and will only serve to preserve a broken bureaucracy at the expense of the American people and their safety."
The Obama administration has fought back against comparisons of the Deepwater Horizon response to the hurricane Katrina disaster, where complacency that spanned local, state, and federal agencies combined to take a heavy human and political toll. But while Rep. Ed Markey (D) of Massachusetts on Tuesday pointed at lax regulation by the Bush administration, which had heavy ties to oil, it's also true that President Obama is the largest recipient of political donations from BP-associated PACs over the past 20 years.
And though the Obama administration has halted all new exploratory drilling in the Gulf, MMS has approved 26 environmental review exemptions for proposed drilling sites since the April 20 accident.
As part of the Obama administration's response to the Deepwater Horizon accident, Salazar said Tuesday he will seek an additional $29 million from Congress for stepped-up rig inspections and enforcement,
“The tragedy aboard the Deepwater Horizon and the massive spill for which BP is responsible has made the importance and urgency of our reform agenda even clearer,” Salazar said Tuesday in Washington.
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