Porn, Meth, and Oil Company Parties

John Belushi in the movie "Animal House."

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Instead of just inspecting offshore oil platforms, employees of the Minerals Management Service spent time trading links to Internet porn, shaking off crystal meth buzzes, and partying on the dime of the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating, according to a new report released Monday by the Interior Department’s Inspector General. The IG’s investigation of MMS’ Lake Charles office, in oil-ravaged Louisiana, found “a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies was widespread.” Among IG findings:

  • Thirteen current and former MMS employees in the Lake Charles office used their MMS email accounts to forward links to Internet porn. Between 2005 and 2009, seven current MMS employees emailed porn 314 times.
  • Two MMS employees admitted to using crystal meth. In one instance, an MMS inspector admitted that he “might have been under the influence of the drug [at work] after using it the day before.”
  • In 2005, two MMS inspectors and their families accepted tickets and a flight to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, which were provided at a steep discount by Carlos Kibodeaux, the owner of Contract Operator Production Services, an offshore oil service company. “The 40 to 3 ass whupping LSU put on Miami was a lot more impressive in person,” an inspector wrote the next day. “My daughter and I had a blast.”
  • Other gifts from oil companies included meals, hunting and fishing trips, and entrance fees to skeet shooting and golf tournaments.
  • A confidential source told investigators that some MMS investigators had allowed workers on oil platforms to fill out MMS inspection forms. The inspectors would then sign the forms and turn them in as their own.
  • In June 2008, an MMS inspector used his government email to conduct employment negotiations with Island Operating Company, an offshore oil services company that he had repeatedly cited for breaking safety rules. After his employment negotiations began, he conducted four inspections of IOC oil platforms, none of which resulted in citations. Soon afterwards, IOC hired him.

While the news that the hard-partiers at MMS whore themselves to industry isn’t particularly new, most of the past revelations have centered around the agency’s royalty collection arm. That the same problems affect the inspection of offshore oil platforms is tragic, to say the least, in the context of the BP oil spill.

The IG claims that the unseemly ties between industry and Lake Charles’ MMS regulators are things of the past, having been severed in the wake of the January 2007 firing of an inspector who’d taken gifts from an oil company. But some inspectors could have gotten better at hiding their ties to the good ‘ol boys. After all, it’s hard to imagine a change of heart on the part of some former inspectors cited in the report. Asked by a Conoco Phillips employee in an email exchange if he ever takes bribes, one former inspector said he didn’t, but added that he does take “‘gifts'” from “good friends that I wouldn’t write up anyway.”

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