June 10, 2010 11:38 AM EDT
A leading House Democrat is expanding an investigation into the Minerals Management Service, requesting that the Interior Department hand over a wide range of information about the embattled regulatory agency.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has written Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, seeking information regarding the number of offshore-drilling inspectors in the Gulf of Mexico, details about their pay, their educational background, incentives to continue education, their training and turnover rates.
Most notably, Rahall is asking for information about regulators who have held positions inside the oil industry and “information regarding rotation practices designed to ensure that inspectors maintain arms-length relationships with offshore facility personnel.”
Such information could become increasingly important as Democrats move to draft legislation that would reshape the federal regulation of oil exploration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled that she hopes to move a bill after the Fourth of July recess that could address MMS, among other things.
The Interior agency has been repeatedly bashed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who say government employees overseeing the oil and gas industry are too cozy with the companies they regulate. The agency has also come under increased scrutiny since BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, spilling massive amounts of oil into the Gulf.
Finding common ground on reforms, however, could be difficult. Rahall, a key committee chairman, is cool to President Barack Obama’s plan to split MMS into regulatory and revenue collection divisions.
Further, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he does not know of any Democratic efforts to include Republicans in shaping the legislation, which could prove a distraction in moving a bill.