Speaking before Congress Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar admitted that his agency’s Minerals Management Service was basically asleep at the wheel—or maybe just studiously ignoring the wheel—when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, causing a massive oil leak. The MMS (you remember them, don’t you? Graft, corruption, sex, drugs, lies…?) was responsible for making sure BP was taking the proper precautions in case of just such a disaster. Apparently, it’s only now occurring to the folks in Washington that the functions of “promoting offshore oil drilling” and “regulating their safety and environmental compliance” might be a bit of a conflict of interest.
From the New York Times:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, facing Congress for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last month, said Tuesday that weaknesses at his agency’s Minerals Management Service may have contributed to the disaster.
“We need to clean up that house,” he said in an appearance before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, referring to the minerals service.
Mr. Salazar said that the majority of the agency’s 1,700 employees were honest and capable but that there remained “a few bad apples.” He said that anyone found guilty of negligence or corruption would be rooted out.
The Obama administration has already announced that it will separate the minerals service’s conflicting functions of promoting offshore oil operations and regulating their safety and environmental compliance. Mr. Salazar said further steps would be needed to give federal oil regulators more resources, more independence and greater authority to police oil drilling operations.
The hearings came as scientists are carefully monitoring the currents in the Gulf of Mexico after warning that crude oil leaking from a blown well off the Louisiana coast was moving into an area where it could be swept toward the Florida Keys and the Atlantic Ocean within the next two weeks. The spread of oil could threaten coral reefs and hundreds of miles of additional shoreline.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded the fishing ban on Tuesday to contend with the spreading oil, with the prohibited area now covering about 19 percent of Gulf of Mexico under federal jurisdiction.