In the wake of one of the largest oil spills, and arguably one of the worst environmental tragedies in American history, United States Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declared that he will split the beleaguered Minerals Management Service, the office that oversees offshore oil drilling activities, into two entities, one to lease Federal lands and water areas for the conduct of offshore drilling and the other to concentrate on the inspection and implementation of safety and environmental statutes.
Salazar requested for more than $20 million to finance more safety inspections and investigations at the agency, and to allow increased inspection activities to three times more then what is currently allowed. The distressed agency was at the center of an investigation that discovered the illicit conduct of MMS employees and stakeholders in the energy industry, according to the 2008 report of the Interior Department’s inspector general.
Even in the face of investigations, the employees mentioned in the report, according to Federal investigators, never even showed an inkling of remorse over the allegations hurled against them (Jim Tankersley, 2010). The issue here is not negligence on the part of the Interior Department to regulate the offshore oil industry, nor the fact that oil drilling is harmful to the environment, but that there was an alleged collusion among private industry players and the government agency that was supposed to enforce the laws and regulations to protect the public from events like what transpired at the Deepwater Horizon oil facility.
Sadly, even with the presence of the report, the government seemingly turned a blind eye to the contents of the report. It is not known what favors were exchanged during the “unbridled, unethical conduct” actions of the employees and Federal officials, but what is seen is that if those responsible were immediately sanctioned, then the Deepwater incident could have been avoided, and the loss of billions of dollars and the destruction of whole ecosystems would have been prevented.