Inspector Finds Broad Failures in Oil Program
The Interior Department's program to collect billions of dollars annually from oil and gas companies that drill on federal lands is troubled by mismanagement, ethical lapses and fears of retaliation against whistle-blowers, the department’s chief independent investigator has concluded.Here's the long and the short of it. (Click through to the article for full details.) We've been badgered by the GOP to expand domestic oil drilling. This will help free us from dependence on foreign oil, we are told. However, in exchange for the right to drill on Federal lands, the oil companies are to pay considerable fees to the government. However, it turns out that the fee schedule is too "complicated" or something, so they can't cough up the roughly ten billion per year we should be getting. And, wonder of wonders, the Interior Department's computer system wasn't up to the task of calculating the fees, so the nice people in the government just didn't bother collecting the money from Big Oil. Asking the oil companies to do it would, apparently, have represented too much of a hardship.
The report, a result of a yearlong investigation, grew out of complaints by four auditors at the agency, who said that senior administration officials had blocked them from recovering money from oil companies that underpaid the government.
In one case, senior officials decided that it would impose a “hardship” on oil companies to demand that they calculate the back interest they owed after having been caught underpaying. The agency itself was years behind in billing the companies, because its computers could not perform the calculations.
Particularly striking were complaints by two auditors in Oklahoma City, Randall Little and Lanis Morris, who said that senior officials had refused to demand $1.5 million in back interest from oil companies caught underpaying, saying that requiring the companies to calculate their own bills would be a hardship. But the officials said the Interior Department could not get its own systems to do the calculations.
When asked about this matter by investigators, the agency’s associate director, Lucy Querques Denett, responded, “How do you define hardship, just because they have a lot of money?”
Welcome to the new Oil for Fools program. Why would anyone insist that the oil companies pay us the money they owe for domestic drilling? I mean, they have a hard enough time of it as it is. Can't you just leave them alone?