Can the New Office of Natural Resources Revenue Avoid Conflicts of Interest?

September 28 2010, 12:30 PM

The reputation of the U.S. Minerals Management Service office in Lakewood, it seems, is too tarnished to recover. After all, federal audits busted employees responsible for collecting oil-and-gas royalties for rigging contracts, accepting gifts, and kowtowing to the industry they were charged with regulating (including having sex and doing drugs with industry reps). As a result, the office will simply disappear at the end of this week, reports The Denver Post, which points out there will be no pomp and circumstance when the new Office of Natural Resources Revenue opens in its place.

Greg Gould, who is slated to head the new office—which will be overseen by additional auditors—promises more than a name change. The "whole environment" that created the scandal "is gone, 100 percent gone," he says.

Still, the agency will remain under the supervision of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is inherently problematic, says William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, who testified before Congress yesterday. He worries that leaving revenue-collection responsibilities to Interior employees creates the perception of a conflict of interest since the same department, overseen by Secretary Ken Salazar, is also vested with protecting the environment and public safety (via Government Executive).