Interior Department Under Fire for Lease Issues

Wednesday, 16 Feb 2011 12:04 PM

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The Interior Department’s handling of gas and oil leases has landed it on the government’s high-risk list. The Government Accountability Office’s biennial “High-Risk Report” said Interior might not be able to manage gas and oil leases while reworking the agencies that oversee darrell,issa,Interior, Department,gas, oil leases,gaothe leases, the Washington Post reports.

The Bureau of Land Management and the Minerals Management Service has been under fire since last April’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill for mismanagement of oil and gas leases and failure to collect revenue from their sale. The MMS was dissolved last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and its duties were turned over to the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resource Revenue, the Post said.

The GAO, however, noted new employees with knowledge of gas and oil leases will be needed for the new offices. In hiring, the GAO said the government will be competing with a private sector that can pay more for such expertise, the Post said.

Longtime critic of the MMS, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said, "It's better late than never, but it shouldn't have taken the worst ecological disaster in history for GAO to place this program onto the high risk list," the Post reported.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said the reorganization has “dramatically increased safety standards and oversight of the oil and gas industry” and the reorganization is going as planned without disruption, the Post said.

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