MMS manages to look even more ridiculous

MMS MANAGES TO LOOK EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS…. That the Minerals Management Service, the agency within the Interior Department responsible for offshore drilling, was farcical during the Bush/Cheney era isn’t exactly a new revelation. MMS became one of the most corrupt government agencies in American history, embracing an anything-goes atmosphere that led to literally Caligula-like corruption and debauchery — including federal officials trading cocaine and sex for lucrative oil contracts.

But as the BP oil spill disaster gets worse every day, and scrutiny of the scandal-plagued agency intensifies, new details make the Minerals Management Service look even more ridiculous.

Federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency, according to an inspector general’s report to be released this week. […]

The report includes other examples of troubling behavior discovered by investigators. In mid-2008, a minerals agency employee conducted four inspections on drilling platforms when he was also negotiating a job with the drilling company, a cover letter to the report said.

And an inspector from the Lake Charles office admitted to investigators that he had used crystal methamphetamine, an illegal drug. Investigators said they believe the inspector may have been under the influence of the drug during an inspection.

The department’s acting inspector general, Mary L. Kendall, emphasized that all of the misconduct occurred before the Obama administration took office in January 2009. The Interior Department’s efforts to clean up the MMS have been ongoing, and the agency’s ethics code was overhauled soon after the transition between administrations.

Also today, the Washington Post reports that MMS officials “repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly.” Documents also show that the department “frequently changed documents and bypassed legal requirements aimed at protecting the marine environment.”

We’ll be dealing with the consequences for a very long time.