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Project on Government Oversight




MMS Thought Deepwater Horizon was Award-Winningly SAFE

April 29, 2010 


This afternoon Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bart Stupak (R-MI) sent letters to BP America and Transocean Ltd. requesting information as part of an investigation into the "companies' risk management and emergency response plans for accidental oil and gas releases at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and other offshore deep water or ultra-deep water drilling facilities."

But we think it would probably be wise for the committee to expand their investigation to see whether the Minerals Management Service (MMS) conducted adequate oversight of the drilling rig. In addition to the document unearthed by Marcus Baram at Huffington Post that said that BP would be able to respond to this kind of disaster "to the maximum extent practicable," a POGO blog reader pointed our attention to an article in Beacon magazine noting that MMS awarded Transocean a District Safety Award for Excellence (SAFE). Transocean won the award  "for the outstanding manner in which it conducted its drilling operations in the Lafayette District during the rating period of January 1 through December 31, 2008." Transocean is not noted on MMS's own press release for the 2009 award, though they did win in 1999.

For those who have been following royalty issues for a while, it's fun to note that the Kerr-McGee Corporation also was recognized for corporate leadership in 1999 (now called Anadarko, they were also honored in 2007). Since then, the company has been in litigation with the government over royalty relief for deepwater drlling leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The most recent GAO estimate is that taxpayers could stand to lose $53 billion in royalties. For more information on royalty relief, go here.

MMS announced that due to the accident, this year's award ceremony will be postponed (but Anadarko will again be recognized).

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Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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