The revamped Minerals Management Service is wasting no time showing the oil and natural gas industry that a new day has dawned.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — created last month in the wake of April’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — assessed a $5.2 million civil penalty on BP America for submitting “false, inaccurate and misleading reports” about energy production on Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands in southwestern Colorado, bureau director Michael Bromwich said today.
BP reported incorrect royalty rates and prices to the department and also attributed oil and gas production to the wrong leases, according to an Interior news release. The penalty is not related to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The agency’s investigation preceded creation of the new bureau in May, Bromwich said this morning at a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee. Still, Bromwich said the fine is indicative of the type of hard line the bureau intends to take against companies that try to cheat the government out of money it’s entitled to receive.
It does reflect a seriousness of purpose and an intent to be aggressive in pursuing a company’s violations of royalties and other issues.
You remember the Minerals Management Service, right? The agency that completely failed to properly oversee oil rig operations? Employees literally in bed with oil company representatives, jacked up on crystal meth while on the job? Fell on its sword after BP’s Deepwater rig exploded and sank, causing a still-ongoing environmental catastrophe? Now you can own a piece of it.
The watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility this morning announced they’re auctioning off a wide assortment of tchotchkes from MMS. And we’ve got to hand it to them: their snark is top-notch.
PEER has 16 items for auction, starting at anywhere from $50 to $125. They’ve got a nice pen set, handy Interior Department ethics guide (mint condition and never opened, perhaps?), lanyard, and an oh-so-cute plush whale, among other items. But it’s the descriptions — the official MMS pedometer is labeled “Walking away from your responsibility can really be the path to better health!” — that are truly golden.
Do I hear ten? Tentententen twentytwentytwenty thirtythirtythirty SOLD AMERICAN!
Avatar director James Cameron was summoned to Washington yesterday to advise the Environmental Protection Agency on innovative ways to cap the massive, ever-worsening BP oil spill, according to the AFP.
AFP said Cameron attended the meeting with a Canadian submersible researcher, who built the submarines used on his 1989 movie The Abyss. But it doesn’t say exactly what real experience Cameron has with oil rigs, environmental cleanup, or anything else that qualifies him to figure out the many complicated technical issues that have stumped an entire industry. But hey, he did direct Titanic, which has something to do with water. Plus Avatar was, like, totally sweet. So he’s got that going for him.
Seriously, though, if the government is so out of ideas that they’re turning to an action movie director, we’re all in big trouble. It sounds disturbingly similar to the South Park episode Imaginationland, in which the Pentagon consults with directors Michael Bay, M. Night Shyamalan, and Mel Gibson to help them counter a terrorist threat. Hopefully the EPA’s meeting with Cameron went better than this:
The Wall Street Journal speculates on possible punishments for BP, saying that the government could go beyond fines and bar the company from receiving federal contracts. BP is the single biggest supplier of fuel to the Department of Defense, with Pentagon contracts worth $2.2 billion a year, the Journal reports.
BP has plenty to be worried about right now, but losing the right to bid on U.S. government contracts is probably fairly low on the list. The Gulf spill doesn’t have anything to do with a federal contract, so a suspension or debarment action would just be vindictive — and the government has shown it’s able to forgive and forget, as it still hands out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts annually to ExxonMobil.