The Minerals Management Service, the agency in charge of regulating offshore drilling in the US, has investigated the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in a “completely backwards” manner, according to remarks expected to be made Thursday to a Congressional panel by Mary L. Kendall, the acting inspector general of Interior, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Minerals Management agency has come under fire in recent weeks for the handling of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on the 20th of April.
In prepared remarks obtained by the Journal, Kendall cites a series of reports over the years by her office that document how MMS employees have at times accepted gifts from, socialized with, and even had sexual relations with oil and gas industry representatives.
Criticisms include a laundry list of professional lapses: employing only 60 staff to cover nearly 4,000 facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, a five-paragraph guide on how to deal with accident investigations, and training manuals that that "appear to be considerably out of date", according to Kendall, which were developed between 1984 and 1991.
The Obama administration is in the process of dismantling the MMS, caving into pressure from congressmen who say the agency is loaded with conflicts of interest, the paper reported.
"The greatest challenge in reorganizing and reforming MMS lies with the culture – both within MMS and within industry," Kendall said in the remarks.
Kendall also emphasized the need for new ethical standards that will limit the influence of the oil and gas industry on regulators. "Perhaps it is time to impose some ethics requirements on companies doing business with the government," she said.
She will speak before the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, which is conducting numerous hearings into the causes of the April 20 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
"The MMS is bound by [U.S.] Coast Guard regulations, which are comprehensive, but in my view, completely backwards, gathering evidence via public hearing, rather than developing evidence to culminate in a public forum," according to Kendall's testimony.
Some lawmakers have come up with their own proposals to discourage oil industry corruption, the Journal reported.
Sens. Bill Nelson (D - Fla.) and Robert Menendez (D - N.J.) would make it a felony for offshore oil drilling regulators to work for the industry within two years of leaving their government job, and prohibit regulators from owning stock or other interests in the oil and gas industry, the paper reported.