Interior official who oversees offshore drilling for MMS resigns
By Ken Cole On May 17, 2010 · 29 Comments · In Oil and Gas
Chris Oynes will step down
Interior official who oversees offshore drilling for MMS resigns.
Tagged with: Department of Interior • Gulf oil spill • Minerals Management Service
Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.
29 Responses to Interior official who oversees offshore drilling for MMS resigns
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Will the s__t roll downhill on this or, more appropriately, uphill to Salazar? We can only hope that this group of industry-friendly losers will all be sent packing.
Yes. Salazar MUST go.
There was a picture of Salazar in the New York Times over the weekend – looking utterly lost, dazed and confused in the background while 3 workers tried to get the oil off a poor pelican.
More importantly, the permitting staff must go, regardless of civil service status. I am hoping the hearings will result in firings for cause. I am also hoping they decide to suspend operations and review the suspect platforms and the paperwork….shut them down until everything is in order.
JimT: The thing is, the staff people within Interior say that Salazar is the reason so very little has changed in Interior.
There are limits to what he can do in terms of getting rid of the mid level folks who are the ones reviewing the permits, communicating with the oil companies, etc. Sometimes the problem is not with the head, but with the rest of the body, so to speak. And MMS has some very powerful allies in Congress and in the Western political circles. Salazar is certainly a supporter of the oil and gas industry in Colorado, and will be reluctant to take them on, but this whole Gulf disaster HAS to be addressed, or DC and Obama and the agencies will look like total fools instead of partial…~S~
So this is the result of all those Bushie SES pukes who were the dirty foot soldiers for the demise of regulation during the last regime were (what was the term… not embedded…) into civil service terms that make it hard to get rid of them in the following admin. Not that they didn’t do enough damage while Bush was in office. The patronage system is alive and ell in the twenty-first century.
No, not all. MMS was a mess under Bush, but also a mess under Clinton as well. The Bushies did everything they could to make the agency permitting process a rubber stamp deal, but not just at MMS…BLM, USFS, etc. And Dems have buried too, in all honesty. It is a game all of them play.
BUT Jim T:
The people inside the agency say Salazar is a BIG, BIG, BIG problem.
Off with his Hat!
Things inside of Interior have been bad for awhile; the last 8-10 years have really really cut into morale, made people not care about doing their jobs, and also looking for people to blame. Naming a new SOI would be a PR move mostly; MMS needs someone to go in, and with Congressional and WH approval, really clean house. Maybe you need someone just for that, have them re-organize it, and then get someone in there who understands how to run an organization. Those are sometimes two very different skills.
Traditionally the Department of Interior was regarded as a corrupt agency.
That is why way back in 1905, the new US Forest Service was put in the Dept. of Agriculture. The message was “we are new, scientific, professional, honest.”
What an irony the agency is still corrupt a century later!
I think conservation groups who want to get a public lands reformation agenda into the public’s eye will have a great opportunity in the next few weeks/months.
The pressure is just beginning to build up against the DOI and the public is becoming more aware of the power that iron triangles have on the regulatory process. Conservation groups who want to see broader reform to the entire extractive industry have a grand opportunity here to link the BP oil spill and the lack of regulations to the lack of regulations on the public lands extraction policies.
With the public outcry, linking these policies could be MUCH cheaper than continued litigation against them.
I agree with your insight.
This the way most interest group iron triangles get weakened and sometimes reformed — some terrific catastrophe and/or act of public corruption.
Kingdon’s 3 streams have come together. I just hope something is done while they are aligned and this whole catastrophe isn’t utterly worthless.
I see Salazar testifies before Congress today.
The oil companies looked awful during their day before Congress. Let’s see if Salazar can justify has failure to correct Minerals Management Service.
The Director of the Minerals Management Service under Bush Cheney at the time the BP Deepwater Horizon well was initially being considered was none other than Wyoming’s own Randall Luthi. He had previously worked on Cheney’s Congressional staff , Senator Alan Simpson’s staff, and earlier had worked at the Department of Interior. Before moving over to MMS. Luthi had briefly been the Deputy Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Luthi was the Speaker of the Wyoming House and a long time legislator , but is a lawyer by trade. He is known in some circles as the go-to guy for issues regarding mineral royalties , coming and going actually . He is also a Star Valley area cattle rancher.
Luthi’s primary acomplishment in the neary 2 years he served as MMS director was developing and implementing the ” fast track – greased wheel- rubber stamp ” of getting drilling and exploration permits approved in record time, a hallmark of Bush-Cheney. Thanks to Luthi’s leadership, Categorical Exclusions became the norm at MMS for sidestepping environmental assessments for both onshore and offshore leases.
That’s still a’happening. Apparently , MMS has issued 27 new permits using categorical exclusions SINCE the BP Deepwater blowout !
It should also be noted that an internal MMS whistleblower strongly recommended against granting the BP Deepwater permit at the time ( Feb 09 ? ) because about 85 percent of the engineering drawings were worthless or nonexistent.
That particular Blowout Preventor would not have been permitted elsewhere in the world, like the North Sea and offshore Brazil. What’s worse , BP filed documents in the dead zone between Luthi leaving MMS in late January 09 when Obama took office, and his successor took the job in April of last year. Those documents, done by for and of BP adn industry , said there would be no significant risk of an accident at the wellsite so further environmental assessment was not needed. It was rubberstamped thus and so. Luthi and his staff had all but approved the BP well anyway before he/they left office, and many others.
Here’s the real rub: After leaving office, Luthi was prohibited from lobbying the federal government for one year. At the end of that probation period, Luthi took a new job .
Get this. In March of this year, about 6 weeks before the BP blowout and spill, Luthi became the President of the National Offshore Industries Association. Yup, the offshore well lobbyists.
He’s been pretty darn quiet since this little blowout down there in the Atlantis oil play, hasn’t he ?
Wyoming sends the very best people to Washington , don’t we?
Thanks for the info…he sounds as bad or worse than Mark Rey…
Randall Luthi is actually a nice guy to just sit and chat with. Very affable.
Just don’t let the conversation come around to oil, gas, cows , politics and Mormons…. which except for the latter is pretty much Wyoming-at-large.
Thanks for repeating and expanding on the information on Luthi.
Wyoming has sent some real bastards to the national stage. It wasn’t just war criminal Cheney. We should make a list.
As I said, it would be a good thing to know just who really made the front line decisions at MMS, but I couldn’t agree more..the agenda was to grease the skids and get as many leases and permits out there, damn the environmental consequences.
I was my wife last night about the history of categorical exclusions, and her memory..and she has co-written a few books on NEPA…is that the CEs were meant for very minor exceptions…painting ranger’s cottages, etc. Definitely NOT the level of abuse the executive agencies have used it in the past decade or so. Again, another sort of below the radar thing..not as spectacular as woodshedding CEOs or the SOI, but it would definitely have more of a benefit for statutory and regulatory protections if the use of the CE were brought back to the original intent. I suppose one could back to the FRs and read the history to the extent it is there…
No, I didnt’ turn into my wife; I meant to say I was ASKING…LOL
Don’t forget Julie MacDonald – another Wyoming knothead.
NY Times story on Salazar’s weaseling..uhhmmm, testimony.
The defining quote? Salzar said that MMS “might have” contributed to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf.
These people just can’t say what everyone knows…we screwed up in the year plus we have been in, and even if we didn’t issue this permit, we have issued others without proper environmental reviews and that will stop. Today. I am ordering a review of all permits with categorical exclusions and a cease production order until those reviews are complete.
Now, which approach works for you, the voter?
I watched Salazar on TV. Horrible!
Does anyone know of some group engaging in some activity to get rid of him? We’ve called for it, but is there some group out there?
Not that I have heard, Folks are grumbling, but absent some scandal…and at Interior lately, it is often not if but when…I think he is there until he sees a better political opportunity. I think we would have seen him jump ship to run for Colorado Gov. if the election wasn’t projected to be one of the ugliest battles this fall. Better to stay safe in DC and see how the next 3 years turn out. Who knows? If the Dems lose the Bennet seat, you may see him run for that at some point…return to his roots.
I am kind of hoping he retires and goes to his ranch.
I think Tim Egan is the person to write the history of the Interior Department, with focus on the last 30 years. I think a lot of Americans don’t really know just how many scandals there have been, and how much it affects them.
Obama should have fired Salazar on the spot yesterday.
This today, “Obama and the Oil Spill“. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times. “President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing.”
He goes on to say that this is an environmental 9-11, and he is squandering it just like George W. did the American unity after the terrorist 9-11.
JimT: You mean like the scandalous giveaway of billions and billions of dollars in gold to foreign mines like Barrick in Harry Reid’s Nevada? Mines that are permanently drawing down the water table over large areas and causing springs to dry up? And destroying the ability of the land to support wildlife? The fact that with a huge majority, the Dems did not lift a finger to change this???
Reid is a gold whore, no doubt about it, and the NUMBER ONE reason the Mining Law of 1872 hasn’t been brought up to date despite best efforts in the House recently. I really don’t understand why that issue does not resonate with folks…horrific profiteering by foreign corporations; horrific damage to the environment forever, and all at taxpayer expense.
For those of you frustrated by the legislative process in the Senate, I would urge you to Google up some articles to appreciate fully just how arcane it is, and how much it is weighted against taking action. The theory..now just plain irrelevant in today’s reality…was the Senate was suppose to act as a brake on the House, who because of two year terms, was thought to be the place where changeover would be rapid, new ideas quickly put forth, sometimes rashly, and the Senate was supposed to balance that potential out. Instead, the House has become a collection fo safe districts for both parties due to gerrymandering, and the Senate is a dinosaur where one Senator can hold up office nominations, or legislation virtually forever as a whim or an opening tit for tat negotiation…your bill for my naval base.
If this oil spill wasn’t happening in an election year, you might see stronger responses from the WH. But, like most politicians, his staff seems to be giving him advice more aimed at keeping jobs than doing their jobs.
If Salazar doesn’t put a hold on all oil drilling permitting and issue a stop pumping order and a review of all permits issued during the last say 9 years, he should be asked why, and then encouraged to resign. He should be given an ample opportunityh to do the the right thing, but time is running out. And if Salazar doesn;t do it, Obama should use the executive order to do what he can with that process.
Personally, I think this issue highlights a much bigger problem. Just how much control does oil (plus coal and chem) have in our Federal agencies and beyond? With the recent report on CBS showing the Coast Guard telling reporters to get off an oil soaked beach or face arrest stating, “This is BP’s rules, it’s not ours,” I am totally convinced that there is something much more sinister at play. Last I knew, the Coast Guard called the shots on the U.S. coast and coastal waters, not a London-based oil company. That and scientists not being permitted by BP to deploy equipment below surface to determine the amount of oil being spilled just reeks of collusion. Oddly, the only truth we’ve seen thus far seems to have come out of the Senate hearings. If you have not seen the video, you can check it out here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6496749n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea. Oh, btw, BP admitted today that the spill is larger than they previously lied about, er, I mean estimated.
There are some who would argue that since the days of the railroads, banks and Standard Oil, the influence of corporations has always been THE most important consideration in our governing decisions. They never left the halls of Congress or the White House. The names just changed.