Regulators Conducted Lax Oversight of Oil Industry, Report Uncovers

A new report to be released this week will detail inappropriate behavior by federal regulators charged with oversight of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, ranging from conducting inspections while under the influence of crystal methamphetamine to allowing industry officials to fill in their own inspection reports.

The inspector general’s report describing inappropriate behavior by staff at the Minerals Management Service from 2005 to 2007 was obtained by The New York Times from a person not authorized to speak to reporters, but familiar with the investigation. There is no evidence that the actions noted in the report played a role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but the report highlights further evidence of what critics have derided as a culture of kickbacks and lazy oversight.

In mid-2008, a Minerals Management Service employee conducted four inspections on drilling platforms, the report says, at the same time as he was negotiating a job with the same drilling company. Inspectors also reportedly received gifts such as tickets to sporting events, meals and hunting trips from oil companies while overseeing the industry.

According to the report, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana had been presented with the findings of the investigation, but declined prosecution.