09.16.08

Leahy, Salazar Question DOJ Response To Oil And Gas Scandal At MMS

Today, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and United States Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey regarding the Department of Justice’s response to reports of abuses within the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which collects royalties from oil and gas leases on federal lands.  In their letter, Leahy and Salazar asked Attorney General Mukasey whether the Department of Justice is conducting any criminal investigation relating to the scandal at MMS, and for an explanation of why the Department of Justice has, according to media reports, declined to prosecute officials named in reports by the Department of the Interior Inspector General Earl E. Devaney. 

 

The text of the letter is below.  A PDF is available online.

 

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Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

 

We write with respect to reports released last week by Department of the Interior Inspector General Earl E. Devaney detailing abuses within the Minerals Management Service, which collects royalties from oil and gas leases on federal government land. 

 

Inspector General Devaney found that numerous employees of this program, including its former director, accepted lavish gifts and outings from energy companies, were paid improperly for outside work, and engaged in “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” with the very companies they purportedly regulated.  Given the vast sums of money and vital energy interests administered by this office, these allegations of systematic corruption are shocking and outrageous.  As Congress prepares to make important policy decisions to deal with the looming energy crisis, we believe it is crucial to restore accountability for those who administer our energy policy.

 

According to media reports, one retired official has pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge in connection with this investigation, but the Department of Justice has declined to prosecute the two highest ranking officials named in the reports.  Given the Inspector General’s findings of serious and pervasive wrongdoing within the Minerals Management Service, we hope that you will continue to investigate and consider whether criminal charges are justified and that you will promptly bring any charges determined to be appropriate.

 

Please let us know whether any criminal investigation is ongoing in connection with Inspector General Devaney’s investigation into the Minerals Management Service.  To the extent that the Department of Justice has already formally declined to prosecute individuals referred to the Department in connection with this investigation, please tell us the basis for these decisions.

 

We look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

PATRICK LEAHY                                         KEN SALAZAR                                       

Chairman                                                         Senator 

 

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