Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
MAY 17, 2010 2:58PM

Interior official in charge of Gulf oil drilling to retire

Rate: 6 Flag

The man in charge of gas and oil drilling for the Minerals Management Service, Chris Oynes, has announced he'll retire at the end of the month, according the Washington Post. Oynes was promoted to Associate Director for Offshore Energy and Minerals Management with the Interior Department in 2007, despite being embroiled in a controversy over the friendly terms he signed for companies who leased land in the Gulf. That appointment was plenty controversial. Representative Carolyn Maloney, at the time:

It is completely ridiculous that MMS would take the person most likely responsible for the royalty rip-off and put him in charge of the whole show.

This is just one more in a long line of actions showing that MMS sides with Big Oil over the American taxpayers. If it isn't the revolving door that brings oil and gas industry folks positions of power at MMS, then it’s the promotion of an insider responsible for one of the government’s costliest and most ridiculous missteps in recent history.

Now Oynes is involved, it seems, in another "costliest and most ridiculous misstep" in history, that of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. In his role as overseer of leases and royalties, Oynes has probably touched Deepwater Horizon paperwork from the first day of its lease through the current sham reports it's issuing on the amount of oil spilling forth. More importantly, though, Oynes is a representative of a branch of government completely captured by those it should regulate. As such, his departure is both necessary and unlikely to change very much.

Chris Oynes, regional director of the Gulf of Mexico [Outer Continental Shelf] Region, recently stated when referring to the deepwater [Gulf of Mexico], "Its future looks bright, as many new geologic trends are only now seeing the first exploratory drilling." (2000; PDF; quoted from Oil & Gas Journal, 11/6/00)

Oynes was a cheerleader for reduced royalties for deepwater drilling throughout the Bush administration. He seems to have also been the point person for press who needed an oil-friendly quote about the "phenomenal" success of deepwater drilling the Gulf and the importance of both oil and gas field finds for those companies.

That he was promoted and promoted isn't exactly a surprise. He diligently enforced the government agenda of friendliness toward major corporations and, through his work at the Interior Department, managed to enforce policies -- not laws, but interpretations thereof -- that offered the friendliest possible conditions to those who would dare to drill the deep, dangerous waters of the Gulf. This was done in the name of money -- both corporate and government profits -- and sometimes in the name of national security, as when, under the Bush administration, many companies like BP were granted "Royalties in Kind" mark-ups for offering the government oil in place of a reasonable share of profits from leased lands.

With a history like that, you've gotta wonder: what was this guy still doing in his job? Oh, right -- he does it better than anyone else. The problem isn't so much the guy in the job, it's that the job requires that kind of corporate obsequience to begin with.

Good riddance, Chris Oynes. Enjoy your retirement. I only wish it could've happened sooner, and that perhaps your entire department could retire, immediately, with you.

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That any portion of the commons is leased or sold without compensation to the citizens of the United States is not just bad, its criminal. Who the hell gave them the right to give away things that rightfully belong to all of us?
As an ex oil and gas landman, I can think of exactly ZERO times that a lease was signed by any landowner that returned no royalties to said landowner. Who would be that stupid?
From the folks who bought you cocaine parties. http://www.truthout.org/article/tawdry-tale-oil-drillers-and-mms-chicks
Good riddance indeed. Well said.
-- Who would be that stupid?

Right Wingnuts??????? I mean, Rush is Our Leader, isn't he????? Besides, all those gulf fishermen are so stupid, they'll be easily convinced that BP was just doing Obama's bidding.
Or another way of saying this is that the Obama Administration gave the Rig a safety award last year.

And we want Big Government why again?
May the housecleaning continue.
Deborah Young. We dont want a big government. It only does bad things and as Reagan said, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" are scary words.
So perhaps you would do well in Somalia? You know, absence of government and all that. Let the strongest (corporation) survive!
You're a career 'crat who gets perks all the time from oil conventions, and then the White House staffers start showing up and rifling through your files, and Rahm Emanuel is calling every half hour, and he's screaming bloody #%#%!!!???!!!!

I hate that when that happens.
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Heck of a job, Brownie.
Great work, Summer. I sure am gonna miss Oynes, but then guys like that are a dime a dozen. No conscience about duty or environment. Just rubber-stamp everything that comes across the desk and collect your check. Don't forget to by-pass the EPA and NOAA. Those groups will only slow you down. I wonder what we paid this guy per year to be a oil corporation lackey. My guess would be over $300,000 plus kick-backs and mysterious gifts from Big Oil and I suppose he could manage to get by.
I would also be curious to know what his cozy retirement package we will pay for is gonna cost us. Of course the guy looks like a walking heart attack just looking for a place to happen. Maybe we'll get off cheap.
Ken Salazar is the next guy's head that needs to roll. Don't know much about Ken, but I did a little digging and he seems like a decent guy, but he is also too friendly with big oil and had a history of voting in their favor.. He's had over a year to straighten out some of MMS's messes, but hasn't done much that I can find. Why not do an exopse on ol' Ken?
I'm not quite sure how there is a lesson to be had in this saga against big government. What I take away from this is that big money corrupts absolutely. What to do besides split up the regulatory/safety and royalty functions, and hire an angel to run each side?
Too bad this fat assed creep can't spend a few years of his retirement in prison for his crimes against nature.
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