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Oynes to Leave after Gulf BP Oil Spill and MMS Employee Drug Use Reports

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by hearit

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In The News

Oynes to step down a month early from MMS, following the massive Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill accident and claims that employees received improper gifts, engaged in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations with energy industry representatives.
The House Natural Resources Committee said that, beginning May 26, it will hold a seven-part Hearing to investigate the oil spill incident and "examine the future of America's offshore oil and gas policy." BP is responsible for stopping the gushing oil well and paying for cleanup, paying more than $9.6 million without denying a claim. Asked whether he supports a bill to raise the liability limits from $75 million to $10 billion, BP Chairman Lamar McKay said, "Well, I haven't looked at the specific legislation. What we have been very clear about is the $75 million, we're going to exceed that, that's irrelevant, and we've said that it's just irrelevant in this case."
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was disappointed that an effort to ensure oil companies pay fully for any disasters they cause had stalled in the Senate on a partisan basis. "This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill," said President Obama. "I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies." Obama plans to establish a Presidential commission to investigate the oil disaster and the panel will explore "a range of issues," including federal oversight of offshore oil drilling, safety aboard oil rigs and environmental protection.
In the meantime, a top official of the Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling is retiring a month earlier than planned. Chris Oynes had told his bosses after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that he would retire at the end of June. Oynes instead announced Monday that he'll be stepping down at the end of May. Oynes has served as associate director of the Minerals Management Service's Offshore Minerals Management Program (MMS) since 2007.
Critics of MMS have previously accused Minerals Management Service's Offshore Minerals Management Program service of being in bed with the same energy industries it supposedly regulates. A 2008 report from the Interior Department's inspector general found that Minerals Management Service's Offshore Minerals Management Program employees received improper gifts from energy industry representatives, and additionally engaged in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations with them.
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Salazar outlined steps to overhaul the Minerals Management Service, which has been criticized for its supposedly cozy relationship with the oil and gas companies and industries that MMS is tasked with overseeing. Salazar said his department has worked aggressively to contain the BP oil spill in the Gulf and to limit the accident's economic and environmental damage. "We will get to the bottom of this disaster and will hold those responsible accountable," he said. Salazar tried to assure lawmakers that he'll be cracking down on oil drilling practices in the Gulf of Mexico; the Gulf of Mexico is the source of about a third of U.S. oil production.
Salazar said that those MMS employees involved have been terminated and prosecuted, and other personnel actions taken. "The employees at MMS, some 1,700 of them, most of them are good public servants," he said. "There are some bad apples at MMS," said Salazar, "and we have taken care of them, and to the extent that MMS employees were involved in any kind of negligence here or any kind of failure they will also be held accountable."

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