Minerals Management Service employees doing drugs, exchanging pornographic e-mails: US report

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Washington, May 26 (ANI): In a scathing report on the government's oil drilling regulator, the US Department of Interior's watchdog has accused its employees of accepting gifts from the industry, doing drugs and exchanging pornography-filled e-mails.

According to a Politico report, employees at the Minerals Management Service, under fire for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, regulated companies while negotiating employment with them - a finding that may bolster claims that the agency is too close to the oil industry and lacks the independence to regulate the industry.

The findings were revealed by the department's inspector general Tuesday. The claims are broad. For example, an MMS employee once bragged about seeing in person "the 40 to 3 ass whipping LSU put on Miami" - apparently referring to a Louisiana State University football game.

The investigation also found that MMS employees often grew up with oil industry employees.

More than 300 e-mails were discovered with pornographic images and links.

Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall's House Natural Resources Committee will have the inspector general testifying this week, and he is particularly angry with the MMS.

"As if catching MMS employees literally in bed with industry officials wasn't enough, MMS safety inspectors were flying high in private jets, taking bribes while allowing oil and gas companies to fill out their own safety inspection forms," Rahall was quoted, as saying.

" It's past time for MMS to stop acting as a farm team for the industry - the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion is proof that this isn't just a game," he added.

The Obama administration has asked for reforms at the agency, most notably the ability to break the royalty unit away from inspections.

Rahall, whose committee oversees the agency, has been cool thus far to such plans.

The violations detailed in the report took place before the Obama administration took office.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has called the activities "reprehensible" and asked the IG to investigate whether there were more ethical lapses after he tightened the standards in 2009.

The report, released Tuesday, offers perhaps the most transparent look at the agency under the most scrutiny since the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. (ANI)

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