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Interior scandal: It’s snake oil

Last updated September 11, 2008 4:35 p.m. PT

Interior scandal: It’s snake oil


We’ll race past the sordid details and get right to the accusation: There has been a “culture of ethical failure” at the federal agency that’s supposed to watch out for taxpayers when it negotiates oil royalties and offshore drilling rights.

You can read the steamy parts online. The Interior Department Inspector General’s report “reads like a script from a television miniseries and one that cannot air during family viewing time,” House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., told The Associated Press.

To be honest, we’re too outraged to be prurient.

We’re ticked off because the oil companies involved have discovered that in the Bush administration, Oil Rules. This is the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. Why play by the rules? Just cheat. It’s worked so well for, what, the past seven-plus years.

Consider the numbers: The Interior Department managed about $4.3 billion in royalty-in-kind payments that were made by companies for drilling on federal lands. Now we have to wonder, what should the real number have been? It’s clear that taxpayers did not get the best deal.

The Interior Department needs to follow up by cleaning house and prosecuting those who broke the law. There should also be penalties for the oil companies — they should pay fines or be banned from future participation.

To think, these are the same folks selling the snake oil of more offshore oil development as the way to solve all our energy problems. Yeah, right, we really believe you’re looking out for taxpayers or consumers.

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