Top MMS official shown the door

TOP MMS OFFICIAL SHOWN THE DOOR…. When it comes to assigning blame for the oil spill disaster in the Gulf, the list of culprits isn’t exactly secret. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton failed miserably, and the consequences are severe.

But last week, when President Obama noted “there is enough responsibility to go around,” he included the federal government on the list. “For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill,” he said.

Obama was referring, of course, to the Minerals Management Service, the agency within the Interior Department responsible for offshore drilling. In the Bush/Cheney era, 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.

It became obvious that the agency is in need of a shake-up. Today, we see the first step in that direction.

Chris Oynes, the top Interior Department official who oversees offshore oil and gas drilling for the Minerals Management Service, announced Monday that he will retire on May 31, The Washington Post has learned.

Oynes, who has overseen oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for 12 years before being promoted to MMS associate director for offshore energy and minerals management, has come under fire for being too close to the industry officials he regulated.

The announcement comes just a few days after we learned that MMS “gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.”

Some of these decisions were made last year, but before the White House could bring in its own team to the Interior Department. A spokesperson for the cabinet agency said Obama administration officials are “working very hard to change the culture” in the relevant agencies.

That means replacing the old guard with a new one. It seems more than likely that Oynes will not be the only one who’s replaced.