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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Letter of Support for Amendment to Slow Revolving Door between Industry and Interior

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June 29, 2010

Chairman Jeff Bingaman
Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
304 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Senator Wyden’s Amendment to S. 3516 to Slow the Revolving Door Between Industry and the Department of the Interior

Dear Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski:

We, the undersigned groups, strongly support Senator Wyden’s amendment to S. 3516, the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2010, to slow the revolving door between the oil and gas industry and the Department of the Interior. We applaud Senator Wyden for his leadership on this critical issue and effort to enact the reform called for by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster dramatically illustrates the enormity of the risk to our safety, the environment, the economy, and the general public interest by the capture of government agencies by private industry. The revolving door between the oil and gas industry and its regulator is at the rotten core of the lax oversight that led to oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

Secretary Salazar told Congress he supports a two-year revolving door ban for Interior regulators – and in some cases a lifelong ban. President Obama pledged to “end the cozy relationship” between the oil industry and federal regulators. Senate Wyden has offered a thoughtful amendment to S. 3516 to help do just that by slowing the revolving door. 

The Wyden Amendment would expand and strengthen existing restrictions so that all employees of the Department of the Interior with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – not just the highest-ranking employees – would be banned from lobbying for industry for two years after leaving Interior, and also from making lobbying contact with Interior for at least one year. In addition, the amendment adds a two-year cooling-off period that bans former Interior employees from employment with any party that had interests pending before them in their previous year of civil service. The amendment also establishes a cooling-off period to tackle the fox-in-the-henhouse phenomenon created by the reverse revolving door so that Interior employees cannot oversee matters relating to their former industry employer or client for two years. Importantly, the Wyden Amendment also adds civil and criminal penalties, which are sorely lacking in current restrictions.

One of the most fundamental issues fueling the inappropriate closeness between the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and industry is the frequency with which individuals go through the revolving door. An egregious example of this problem is the last Director of MMS under the previous administration, Randall Luthi. Luthi now serves as the president of an offshore drillers trade association, the National Oceans Industries Association. When the Director of MMS goes on to direct a trade association whose explicit mission was to secure a "favorable regulatory and economic environment for the companies that develop the nation's valuable offshore energy resources,"[1] taxpayers have to question whose interests were actually being served when he was at MMS. The Wyden Amendment addresses this problem by making it clear that the two-year ban applies to aiding and assisting in representation of industry interests.

We urge you and the members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to adopt the Wyden Amendment to enact the reform called for by Secretary Salazar to help to end the dangerously close relationship between the regulators and the regulated. Indeed, revolving door reform is needed throughout the federal government, but it is this committee’s responsibility to address the problem that helped lead to the Gulf oil disaster now.

Thank you for all of your work to address the problems at the Department of the Interior and the MMS. If you have any questions, please contact any of our organizations or Angela Canterbury, POGO’s Director of Public Policy, at (202) 347-1122 or acanterbury (at) pogo.org.

Sincerely,

Center for Corporate Policy
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Greenpeace
OMB Watch
POGO (The Project On Government Oversight)
Public Citizen
Revenue Watch Institute
Sunlight Foundation
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Union of Concerned Scientists
U.S. PIRG 

cc:  Senator Wyden
Members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources

 


1. Project On Government Oversight, "Oil Drilling Trade Group Slips the F-Word into Its Mission Statement," June 11, 2010.

 

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