Report: Interior Dept. Took No Action After Official Accepted Oil Industry Gifts

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

The Interior Department did not “appropriately respond” to an inspector general report that found former Bureau of Land Management Farmington, N.M., District Manager Steve Henke did not report gifts he received from the oil industry, a Project on Government Oversight investigation has found.

According to a letter yesterday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and current Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey:

BLM’s management did not issue warnings, institute disciplinary actions, or otherwise hold Mr. Henke accountable. Nor did BLM’s ethics officials exercise sufficient due diligence when apprised of Mr. Henke’s stroll through the revolving door to go work as the president of an oil and gas association.

The accusations are significant given reports of undue oil industry influence at the Department of Interior, particularly at the former Minerals Management Service.

POGO, in its letter, notes these concerns:

Mr. Henke’s actions, and BLM’s subsequent inaction, are of particular concern because BLM handles onshore oil and gas leasing. We need not remind you that the Deepwater Horizon disaster exposed how years of excessive coziness between the petroleum industry and the now-defunct Minerals Management Service (MMS), which handled offshore oil and gas leasing, was a significant contributing factor in the Gulf spill.

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