You might not think a Department of the Interior agency called the Minerals Management Service would make for juicy, salacious news coverage, but that would mean you'd missed the explosion of scandal that rocked the agency in 2008. Reports circulated of employees sleeping with energy company representatives and snorting crystal meth off the surface of toasters; perhaps more disturbingly, the reports also described an agency-wide culture of corruption, mismanagement, and illicit favors.
This week, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow helpfully recaps the whole sordid affair. It's not just an excuse to rake the Bush administration over the coals, though: Maddow uses the MMS debacle to illustrate another close relationship between the government and the energy industry, one that's currently forestalling efforts to remove a cleanup-liability cap on oil companies during what some have called the worst environmental disaster ever. Under existing laws, oil companies aren't obligated to pay more than $75 million in damages if a spill should occur. "Democrats led by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey have been trying to get rid of that liability cap ever since the B.P. oil disaster happened," Maddow explains. But, she says:
Senator Jim Inhofe has blocked it, explaining that if oil companies have to pay too much of the cost of their own spills then small oil companies, you know, little mom and pop oil companies, won't get into the kind of drilling that's likely to cause great big expensive oil spills.
Again, this is Senator Inhofe's argument for what he's doing. It's not the argument against it. This is why he thinks it's a good idea to have limits on how much of the cleanup oil companies have to pay in the event of a spill--because he doesn't want little companies to have to pay more than they can afford when they spill. He wants you to pay for it. You and me, the taxpayers.