For Immediate Release
POGO Comment on the House Reforms in Response to the Gulf Oil Disaster
WASHINGTON - Today the House of Representatives will vote on two critical bills in
response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil disaster, the CLEAR Act
(Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009), H.R.
3534, and the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act
of 2010, H.R. 5851. POGO strongly supports both of these reforms that
together would overhaul the failed regulator and dramatically improve
oversight, accountability, and transparency in the regulation of the oil
and gas industry.
"These bills address so many of the problems that led to oil gushing
into the Gulf, threatening livelihoods, ecosystems, and public health
and safety – especially the overly-close relationship between the oil
and gas industry and its regulator," stated Danielle Brian, POGO
Executive Director. "We are really pleased to see such strong reforms
being offered. BP and the other companies that make huge profits
operating off our shores must have adequate oversight and be held
accountable to taxpayers. Taxpayers must be protected and get their fair
"Today there is a tremendous opportunity for the House to address
some of the long-standing problems at Interior and create a far better
framework for oversight and accountability in offshore oil and gas
drilling. Votes for the CLEAR Act and the whistleblower protections for
oil and gas workers are votes for preventing another Deepwater
Horizon-like disaster," said Brian.
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Several of POGO's recommendations that have been adopted in the legislation, including:
- Statutorily ending the Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) program, which failed to collect the royalties owed to taxpayers.
- Breaking up MMS and ending the conflict of mission at Interior by statutorily establishing three separate bureaus focused on leasing, auditing, and inspections.
- Ensuring taxpayers get their fair share of royalties
by restoring and strengthening the auditing of royalty payments,
reviewing royalty rates, establishing appropriate bid-minimums, and
increasing the penalties. Also, requires a study on the accuracy of
collection of royalties, and how certain measures would improve royalty
assessments and collection.
- Slowing the revolving door between industry and
Interior by extending the application of current revolving door rules
beyond the highest paid employees at Interior, expanding the lobbying
ban to two years, and adding teeth to the restrictions with civil and
- Protecting whistleblowers so that oil and gas
industry employees can come forward when they witness wrongdoing,
including safety hazards, waste, fraud, abuse, and other concerns.
- Tackling conflicts of interests by expanding the
gift ban and financial interests disallowed, and permits industry
representatives to consult, but not serve as personnel for training
programs for regulators.
- Building expertise and training for inspectors and other regulators by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to establish training academies.
- Improving transparency by requiring information
relevant to inspections, failures, or accidents involving equipment and
systems to be publicly available, creating a public electronic database
on leases, and publishing online information relating to oil and gas
chemical use for drilling or completing the well.
- Providing for some public participation in the
oversight by requiring the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force to create a
Citizens Advisory Council. While this is a step in the right direction,
a more structured body for citizen participation in oversight, like the
advisory council created in the wake of the Valdez spill, still needs
to be established in the final legislation.
- Measuring the effectiveness of the reforms by
requiring the GAO to complete a study to determine whether the reforms
to the Department of Interior mandated in this legislation have
increased oversight and decreased conflicts of interest within the
(Follow the link to see the POGO's original recommendations for improvements to the CLEAR Act.)
POGO applauds the work of the members who have continued to
strengthen and improve the reforms being offered for consideration
today, but particular thanks for the work of Reps. Rahall (D-WV), Miller
(D-CA), Hare (D-IL), Maloney (D-NY), Pingree (D-ME), members of the
Natural Resources Committee, and their staff.
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