The regulations guiding the U.S. government's probe of the worst oil spill in U.S. history are "completely backwards," the Interior Department's inspector general Mary Kendall will testify at a hearing Thursday.
Kendall will also raise concerns about the training and supervision of safety inspectors at Interior's Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for overseeing offshore oil and natural gas development.
The Coast Guard and the MMS are jointly investigating the rig explosion and subsequent spill ravaging the Gulf coast. Since MMS has only five paragraphs of regulations guiding its accident investigations, the agencies are using the Coast Guard's guidelines to search for the cause to the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, Kendall said.
The Coast Guard's investigative procedures "are comprehensive, but in my view, completely backwards, gathering evidence via public hearing, rather than developing evidence to culminate in a public forum," Kendall said in testimony set to be delivered at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing.
MMS has been attacked for not doing enough to prevent the Gulf disaster and being too cozy with the oil and natural gas companies it is supposed to regulate.
A report Kendall released last month found instances in previous administrations of MMS employees accepting gifts, viewing pornography and possibly allowing oil company employees to fill out their own inspection reports.
Kendall's testimony also addressed the agency's Gulf of Mexico safety inspectors, who she said "operate relatively independently, with little direction as to what must be inspected, or how."
Kendall urged the department to formalize and update its inspector training program and to make sure its standards keep up with technological advances.
The Obama administration has appointed Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general for the Justice Department, to oversee restructuring and reforms at MMS.
Changing the culture within MMS and the oil industry will be the biggest challenge in carrying out meaningful reforms, Kendall said.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has implemented a new ethics policy, but Kendall said it may be necessary to "impose some ethics requirements on companies doing business with the government."
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