At a press conference held this morning, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who represents a major coastal state that could be harmed by the Gulf oil disaster at a BP rig, slammed federal regulators at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is in charge of regulating oil rigs.
Nelson demanded to know just “how lax…the regulations and the regulators” had become and referenced the revelations two years ago that the Bush-era MMS had engaged in wild drinking parties on the job. The senator went on to compare the agency to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which failed to properly enforce regulations leading up to the financial crisis, and vowed an investigation into the agency:
NELSON: Just how lax did the regulations and the regulators become? You remember several years ago the very heart of the federal government that does the regulation, called the MMS, the Minerals Management Service, you can remember the stories that they had had all kinds of booze parties, all kinds of marijuana parties, and all kinds of sex parties. And this came out in a number of congressional investigations. Well, is this another regulatory system that’s gone on the blink? Compared to the Securities and Exchange Commission that went on the blink and wasn’t watching the home front on Wall Street that we’re now reaping the results from. So, this is what an investigation is going to be about.
Late last year, MMS regulators proposed a new rule that would’ve “required lessees and operators to have their safety and environmental management system programs audited at least once every three years by either an independent third party or by qualified personnel designated within the company,” replacing a “voluntary approach” adopted in 1994. BP, as well as other major oil companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil, resisted the new regulation, sending comments in opposition. The new MMS guidelines had not yet been implemented, and the $600 million BP rig had “passed three federal inspections, the most recent on April 1.”
Nelson told an MSNBC host yesterday that a climate bill that includes any new offshore drilling is “dead on arrival.” The Senate was expected to include such measures in its upcoming climate bill, following President Obama’s endorsement of the idea.
,EnviroKnow has a copy of Nelson’s legislation he has introduced to block any offshore drilling until an investigation into the rig disaster is complete.