June 7th, 2010
01:41 PM ET

Ex-oil official: Agency is a 'culture of corruption'

Bobby Maxwell, a former Minerals Management Service auditor who spent 22 years with the Interior Department unit, tells CNN that he witnessed "inspections" on off shore oil rigs that were barely worth the name.

"They would look at some papers, have lunch, shake hands with their friends and say goodbye," Maxwell told CNN's Abbie Boudreau in an interview scheduled to air Wednesday on AC360.

Maxwell told CNN the agency had a "culture of corruption" and the inspections he saw were like a country fair - all play and no real work.

The agency - which oversees U.S. offshore drilling, including the Gulf of Mexico - has come under fire for mismanagement, questionable conduct and cozy relationships with industry officials.

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, during an appearance before the House Committee on Natural Resources, said he was trying to change the agency's culture and its structure, which some critics say leads to mismanagement.

"My belief is that most of the employees of the MMS are good public servants," Salazar said. He, however, acknowledged some of the past conduct was "scandalous" and "reprehensible."

Senator pushes to cut 'cozy' ties between oil industry, regulators

Maxwell is still litigating a $60 million whistleblower suit he filed against the agency.

soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Alex

    That's hardly the full scope of it. I have a relative who drilled off California's shores for 20 years, and they regularly took these guys out for 5 star meals, paid golf outings, baseball games, "clubs of ill repute", etc. to try to woo them over.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Greg

    The republican party (and some democrats) have pushed for nullified environmental regulation for decades, and the voters have voted for them. Anyone who presses for sticter safeguards is labelled a un American liberal treehugger. So the inevitable has happened, and the entire gulf coast is responsible... the Senators, Congressman, Governors, Mayors and voters who stood idly by and allowed the status quo to prevail.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John Doe

    One "minor" note which fails to be discussed in the news. Goldman Sachs, and BP CEO unloaded their shares of BP stock a few weeks before the crisis. Seems to me some catastrophic system failure occured, which then lead to information being passed through circuitous routes, about what is going to happen. Criminal probe in the making......

    June 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrunswickChick

      It will be more of the criminal investigating the criminal. What do you think the outcome will be, really??

      June 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      You mean the spending to help fix the huge missteps of the previous administration?!?!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      If BP CEO unloaded stocks right before the blow, then he gets the treatment "Martha Stewart Style". That's a double whammy. Insider trading, and knowledge of bad practice in the company which could be financially risky. Wonder where he hid his money?

      June 7, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Greg

    oops, almost forgot George W Bush and Dick 'drill baby drill' Cheney... they bear a lot of responsibilty for the disaster.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • red

      Not really. They were not on the rig nor in the offices that planned the drilling of this well.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      No, they weren't physically on the rig... just setup the scenario for the rig to blow. Kinda like Bin Laden, eh?

      June 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Craig N. Barthelmas

    Subject: PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 10 May, 2010

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Here’s a contingency plan that has patented technology and a process that really works.

    1. We found a pre-processed material and developed an action plan that would have extracted up to 95% of the oil spill contaminants from seeded surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico, before it hit land fall.
    2. Our product is a, “Modified Oil Spill Environmental Sponge” dubbed M.O.S.E.S., it is a ¼” to ½” product that can be used to absorb oil contaminants from both “fresh water and salt water” surface oil spills. Our tests have concluded that one ton of product will absorb 125 gallons of oil in less than one hour. Simply put it will absorb approximately one half of its weight in oil. M.O.S.E.S. collects/absorbs oil not water. After saturation M.O.S.E.S. will only contain about 1.4% water. It creates no added impact on marine life or the environment. It also poses no threat to other kinds of wildlife including humans. A fifteen minute test will prove this process works.
    3. Our plan is full circle and includes staging, seeding, re-claiming and re-processing all of the contaminated oil’s and seed materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities.
    4. Due to the urgencies to reduce the impact on the environment and the magnitude of this spill, our plan required partnering with the Coast Guard and other organizations that were already being used to provide staging, seeding and reclaim operations.
    5. Seeding operations were to be handled in essentially the same way they were being done, with minor and/or no modifications to airborne or aquatic equipment that would handle spreading ¼” to ½” particulates.
    6. Re-claim operations required the same booms, scoops, pumps and barge operations, that were being used.
    7. Re-processing operations proposed a permanent emissions free plant for processing oil, sand and other like materials into re-usable fuels and commodities. The plant would take approximately ninety to one hundred and fifty days to construct and would become a permanent part of a states fast action response to future oil spills.
    8. Our plan would have first, assisted with the on-going damage control operations in the gulf; second, it could have been put into operation within seven days; third, it would have become a $30,000,000.00 per year financial benefit to the communities that embraced staging and plant processing operations.
    9. This plan will greatly reduced the time and costs associated with this kind of oil spill in the future. We are confident that this type of pro-active plan would become a template for other high risk (oceanic) areas.
    So, why was this plan given no consideration at all? It is not a question of if another spill will happen, but when! The only excuses we have been able to come up with that, we are sure you are going to here are, as follows:
    a. BP, News Networks and Government Agencies didn’t have the time to consider a pro-active long term plan?
    b. We were crack pots when, this technology is patented and the product could be tested in fifteen minutes?
    c. BP has it under control as, they have done this before? Yes and, crazy is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results! We need to get past these smoke screens and prepare for future spills.
    Thank you for your time and consideration. We’d love to receive some constructive input from anyone who is listening.
    Craig N. Barthelmas, Verizon Cell: [313] 682-1428, E-Mail: GE1RE22@aol.com
    CC: BP., CNN, FOX NEWS, NOAA, Governors of: AL., FL., LA., MS., And TX.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig N. Barthelmas

      ATTENTION!! The PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN listed above will not plug oil leaks but, it will address five major problems; two of witch, are concerns that have not been addressed in the media or in the government.
      1. It truly is a LONG TERM-CONTINGENCY PLAN. It will help the community rebuild revenues while providing a fast action operational plan for future oil spills. Yes! Future oil spills will surely occur, despite future prevention efforts!
      2. This plan is full circle and would included staging, seeding, re-claiming and re-processing all of the contaminated oil’s, oil filled sands and seed materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities.
      3. It creates no added impact on marine life or the environment. It also poses no threat to humans and/or other forms of wildlife. Oil, feed stock and sand processing are near emissions free processes.
      4. It will generate $30,000,000.00 worth of new revenues for the communities that embrace staging and plant processing operations. The plant would remain in full operation after the clean-up is done.
      5. It will also add about forty new jobs to the community. This is not only a plan to help with short term clean up’s, it will also have a positive long term and lasting effect on the community as well.
      We all know that BP has been feeding us misinformation and then trying to mobilize volunteers to help minimize their cost. Yes! We sent BP and other agencies this plan. Operations of this nature have a price tag associated with them and so, it would appear that they have no wish to spend anything on spills they can’t control or that won’t go back into their pockets. The OMRS-100 technology is patented and, M.O.S.E.S. (The oil absorbent) can be tested in less than fifteen minutes!
      As always our government is seeking a short term quickie (political talk) so we can get a long term scr**ing! Has anyone mentioned where they (BP) plan to put and/or dispose of all of that contaminated; oil, sand and material? We are pretty sure that without intervention it will be in somebody’s back yard, neatly hidden from sight, killing something else. Don’t you think that any oil spill plan should at least consider: Prevention, Mobilization, Extraction and Disposal Operations?
      Thank you for your time. We would love to receive some constructive input from anyone who is as concerned as we are.
      Craig N. Barthelmas, Verizon Cell: [313] 682-1428, E-Mail: GE1RE22@aol.com

      June 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • red

      Cool you answered your own rant with another rant. WTG dude. How long till the plant can be built?

      June 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Wow! What an idiot you are! Peddle your wares elsewhere!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • BewdyCall

      No offense, dude, but have you ever heard of the phrase, "Less Is More"? This is a blog board, not a Senate hearing. In other words, when presenting your argument, you need to consider your audience, i.e. if you can't make your point in 100 words or less, they tune out (like I did) ...

      June 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jane Doe

    The MMS sounds like the FAA. They represent the "regulated". The whole system appears to be corrupt. America only lives in the hearts and minds of its people. In reality....it no longer exists.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      Yeah, either you're the vulture or else the corpse. These megacorporations own the government, just due to their cash flow, and we have very little protection. We are the corpse that they feed on. I expect BP is planning on buying up a lot of beachfront property at oily rock bottom prices. To help out the landowners facing foreclosure of course.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    CNN blacklisted me from comments because I spoke of this and the horrendous conduct in the Denver office. Can you remove me from your blacklist now so I can comment CNN? My original source was the Denver paper and I was not defaming or breaking any other rule. How can a press organization be so against freedom of speech they stop opinion?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • red

      Looks like you are on the good list again. Never let the creeps keep you down. I always thought that the Denver thing was just the tip of the iceberg.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruce Willis

      I can't see your comments? Have you been blacklisted again?

      June 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      What Denver thing?

      June 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. red

    All the more reason to get rid of everyone in Congress. Maybe the new people we elect will try to clean up the rest of the government. Corruption is ruining us.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • 0nanism0

      What new people? Voting for the only other choice we are allowed to is not the answer. Voting for the same lying liars that lied us into the phony Iraq war is not the answer.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |

    Who does this surprise? This is "American business" at its finest. American business has one objective and that is to separate any customer from their money regardless of what's compromised in the process. How can we make the most money while putting fourth the minimum effort? Want to problem solve? Well there you go!

    June 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • red

      PROFIT. That is all that matters.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Profit? OH you mean the driving principle behind business ethics?

      June 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      That is the sole principle that has gutted health care right there. You cannot "care' anymore. It's too expensive. Doing the "right thing" really gets in the way of profit. However, the one chance to turn it around is the media and getting enough frenzie to scare people enough to make changes. It is scarey when you are really sick and people are shoddy in health care. That CNN is willing to bring this story up is GREAT NEWS to me. Maybe even someday it will become standard practice again to sterilize all hosptial surfaces every 24 hours and to wear white and wash with bleach. Why you think all this Staph has gotten out into the commnity? Nobody is paid to sterilze. Not like they used to. It's a sham job. America. Somebody please save America from the corporate greed.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LeeB

    You have this all wrong we have let this happen, we continue to put corrupt officials back in office time and again. When do we stand up and say enough is enough from both parties and it is both parties. I agree with RandyT corporations own our government they will just continue on their merry way without any fear of being kicked out of office and I say 90% will stay in office because people don't want to change they just continue to complain but are afraid to change. Make all the oil companies but safety procedures in place now at once or they will be shut down, this happened to BP don't think this is the only oil company out there that this could and will happen to they were just the unlucky ones this time.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    Regulation was the target of Reagan and every republican since then. We have no regulation only K-Street yes men in the proper spots. It will take decades to fix the problems caused by deregulation and K-Street plants it will take even longer to dispel the myth that deregulation works. We have a bunch of GOPers running in November saying we have too many taxes and too much regulation that don't even admit where this and the economic problems began.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      I will never believe in de-regulation. People are just too slimey to be trusted. Some things aren't significant enough to be regulated at a Federal level, but for the protection and safety of the general public regulations are necessary and COMPLIANCE with regulation is the endpoint. We have got to increase the fines. Why not? Corporations have the money, government needs the money. Impose some f***g fines already.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mr. mark

    this is the by-product of 8 years with a (failed) oilman in the White House. Like Banking, Finance, Pharma, etc. – industry can not and WILL NOT police itself. There was a 2005 ruling that said the oil industry is "best suited" to determine environmental safety. Uh huh. Like Iraq and the fiscal meltdown, this is ANOTHER gift from the Bush administration.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • red

      YA-BA-DABA-DOOO!!!! finally a genius you sits safely behind a computer and spews filth about previous presidents.
      Your comment is so refreshing and original!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      You are so right on the mark. but it seems that some people forgot that years destroyed many things and the new president has only been there 20 months. The republicans hate him so much nothing will get fixed. they are our big problem, and some dems also. Save america from who the GOP.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      The real problem is that Dem, Rep or Ind, the one thing they all have in common is a huge debt of campaign money to the oil companies... When you buy all the horses in the race you don't really care who wins.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. damiao

    Bush administration or the era of black out in other words, era of crisis in US. http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com

    June 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. KillJoy

    Here is a suggestion for all government people who say, "If only we knew this was happening before this catastrophe."

    HERE IS YOUR CHANCE. Now that you see there is a problem in this department, go look for corruption NOW in other departments that aren't having a catastrophe and clean them up so that we avoid a disaster in the future in their areas of authority. Agriculture, Energy, Defense, etc.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      Oh good idea. Complain. Loose your job, get blacklisted. Your family and status falls apart. Great idea. People will just rally around you in support because they want to lose their job too!!!!

      June 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Raymond

    It was also Reagan who made it legal to tell all the lies that Republicans constantly tell in order to incite hostility in their base and slander the opposition. I think Reagan was the WMD of all WMD's

    June 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
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