MMS distorted environmental assessment of offshore drilling in Alaska (2010)
In March 2010, just days before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that during the Bush administration, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the agency responsible for regulating the oil industry, had altered the work of environmental scientists or pressured them to produce environmental impact reports that would favor offshore drilling in Alaska.
According to the report, the Alaskan regional MMS also failed to follow its own information sharing policy, which requires “that all reports submitted by industry—including proprietary information—should be shared within one working day with MMS staff involved in environmental analyses.” In violation of this policy, the MMS was sharing information with its environmental analysts only on a need-to-know basis and required signed confidentiality agreements to document the sharing of such information. This procedure sometimes prevented environmental analysts from receiving the reports they were charged with assessing and hindered their ability to perform sound environmental analyses.
After the oil spill in the Gulf, New York Times interviews of past and present employees of the MMS revealed that the MMS routinely ignored the warnings of experts about the environmental impact of drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska.
For information about the Obama administration’s restructuring of the agency in response to the exposure of corruption within the MMS, click here and here. For criticism of the restructuring, click here.