Oil spill: Issa launches probe
Updated 4:31 p.m. ET
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is asking the Interior Department and the Minerals Management Service for any and all information related to the April 20 oil rig blast in the Gulf of Mexico.
Democratic committee staffers said separately that the full committee will announce plans to investigate the agency in the coming days.
The California Republican is the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has a reputation for quickly launching investigations into federal agencies within days of that agency landing in the headlines. He pushed for his committee to investigate the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's handling of the Toyota brake problems and launched a probe of the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision to file charges against Goldman Sachs less than a week after they were announced.
In a letter sent Monday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Issa said that oil company BP believes a critical fail safe device may have failed.
"These events call into question numerous issues associated with the department's safety regulations and whether it's improperly granted certifications to BP," Issa wrote.
"The American people also have a right to know whether the federal government possessed and implemented an appropriate emergency response plan to mitigate this disaster," Issa said.
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the department is providing daily updates to lawmakers and will respond to inquiries. "Our priority at this time is to contain and remediate this oil spill," she said.
Issa called on the Obama administration to separate it from the Interior Department last October, arguing that the scandal-plagued agency -- where leadership once faced allegations of accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct -- could be held more accountable for previous actions if it were a separate entity, Issa said.
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, encouraged lawmakers to investigate MMS and its potential role in the disaster, accusing the agency of lax enforcement in the past.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t let Interior off the hook for this,” Brian said. “Everyone knows that MMS’s coziness with industry resulted in the loss of billions of taxpayer dollars, but now we are seeing the even bigger impact of their lax regulation.” She cited an MMS safety award given to the operator of the Deepwater rig and a March GAO report that said the agency failed to inspect federal oil and natural gas leases.
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Issa's letter to Salazar:
| May 3, 2010; 2:04 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Oversight
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