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Scandal: Surplus energy? Inspector general faults improper "drilling" (ahem) at Interior Department


How do you get permission to drill for oil or natural gas on federal lands? There are a lot of crude (not oil) answers to that question, according to a new report from the Interior Department's Inspector General.

Between 2002 and 2006, members of the 55-person Denver office of the Minerals Management Service received gifts, such as ski trips and dinners, as well as straight-up cash tips while the head—Gregory Smith—used "illegal drugs and had sex with subordinates." The MMS awards and oversees the ability to take oil, natural gas, minerals and other goods from properties controlled by the federal government, such as offshore waters or federal lands in the West.

The scandal is not just confined to Denver, either, the report says. At least 12 other Interior Department employees rigged contracts in favor of particular oil companies, were employed by said companies as consultants and/or had sex with oil company employees.

Sounds like a rockin' good time, if not the best way to ensure appropriate oversight of such extractive industries.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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