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House Advances POGO Recommendations for Strong Reforms in Response to the Gulf Oil Disaster

July 30, 2010 

 

Today, the House of Representatives passed the CLEAR Act (Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009), H.R. 3534.  POGO strongly supported this bill and its many critical reforms to address the problems that led to oil gushing into the Gulf, threatening livelihoods, ecosystems, and public health and safety – especially the overly-close relationship between the oil and gas industry and its regulator.

"Today the House responded to the lessons of regulatory failure unfortunately learned since the Gulf oil disaster with reforms for rigorous oversight," stated Danielle Brian, POGO Executive Director.  "The CLEAR Act overhauls the Department of Interior, dramatically improves oversight, accountability, and transparency in the regulation of the oil and gas industry, and ensures taxpayers will finally get their fair share of royalties from their resources."

Several of POGO's recommendations were adopted in the legislation, including:

  • Statutorily ending the Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) program, which failed to collect the royalties owed to taxpayers.
  • Breaking up MMS and ending the conflict of mission at Interior by statutorily establishing three separate bureaus focused on leasing, auditing, and inspections.
  • Ensuring taxpayers get their fair share of royalties by restoring and strengthening the auditing of royalty payments, reviewing royalty rates, establishing appropriate bid-minimums, and increasing the penalties. Also, requires a study on the accuracy of collection of royalties, and how certain measures would improve royalty assessments and collection.
  • Slowing the revolving door between industry and Interior by extending the application of current revolving door rules beyond the highest paid employees at Interior, expanding the lobbying ban to two years, and adding teeth to the restrictions with civil and criminal penalties.
  • Tackling conflicts of interests by expanding the gift ban and financial interests disallowed, and permits industry representatives to consult, but not serve as personnel for training programs for regulators.
  • Building expertise and training for inspectors and other regulators by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to establish training academies.
  • Improving transparency by requiring information relevant to inspections, failures, or accidents involving equipment and systems to be publicly available, creating a public electronic database on leases, and publishing online information relating to oil and gas chemical use for drilling or completing the well.
  • Providing for some public participation in the oversight by requiring the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force to create a Citizens Advisory Council. While this is a step in the right direction, a more structured body for citizen participation in oversight, like the advisory council created in the wake of the Valdez spill, still needs to be established in the final legislation.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the reforms by requiring the GAO to complete a study to determine whether the reforms to the Department of Interior mandated in this legislation have increased oversight and decreased conflicts of interest within the department.

POGO urges the Senate to move quickly to pass the CLEAR Act reforms.

POGO thanks Reps. Rahall (D-WV), Miller (D-CA), Markey (D-MA), Hare (D-IL), Maloney (D-NY), Pingree (D-ME), and members of the Natural Resources Committee, for their leadership, and their staff for their work.

Earlier today, the House passed the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act of 2010, H.R. 5851, sponsored by Reps. Miller and Markey.  Follow the link to view POGO's statement.


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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