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Where’s the Accountability in the Department of Interior?

Not long ago, President Obama demanded accountability from a Rhode Island school district and pretty much endorsed the firing of the whole teaching staff of a school. Why not apply the same standards at the Department of the Interior? Why is accountability good for teachers but not for federal agencies, especially ones overseeing the lucrative oil industry?

If you have forgotten Obama and Arnie Duncan’s call for the scalp of the entire teaching staff at a Rhode Island school, here’s Eric Tucker of the AP to refresh memories:

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — The mass firings of teachers at a struggling high school here have been a flashpoint in the national debate over education reform, with President Barack Obama weighing in and endorsing the move as an example of holding failing schools accountable.

The firings caught the attention of Obama, who during an education address in March singled out the move as an example of accountability.

"So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution," Obama said. "We’ve got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements. But if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show any sign of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability."

Let’s flash forward now and see if Obama has held his own Department of the Interior to his high standards of accountability, with respect to teachers that is.

Recall that Obama himself selected Ken Salazar to be his cabinet head overseeing the environment and that when that choice was made, it was widely criticized by environmentalists who noted Salazar’s pro big business attitude and his endorsement of offshore drilling. Under Salazar, as been repeatedly documented in the media, the Obama Interior Ministry gave hundreds of waivers to oil companies so they would not have to file troublesome environmental impact statements. These waivers were given to companies, like BP, that had major safety violations in the not too far past.

Obama himself on April 2, 2010 assured the nation that oil rigs are safe and that oil leaks occur from refineries, not rigs.

From Democracynow’s report of April 4, 2010:

Obama on April 2: “Oil Rigs Today Generally Don’t Cause Spills”

In the weeks leading up to the oil rig explosion, President Obama claimed that the offshore rigs are safe.

President Obama: "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore."

President Obama speaking on April 2, 18 days before the BP rig exploded. Meanwhile the Huffington Post reports National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials warned the Department of Interior last fall that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.

Obama made that completely false and inaccurate statement on the occasion of overturning 27 years of government policy banning offshore drilling. The ban was enforced by Democratic and Republican administration alike. Just 18 days after Obama’s volte face (he had, of course, campaigned against offshore drilling before backing it), we all know what happened.

Now we learn that more than three weeks after the oil disaster began, the Associate Director of Offshore Energy and Minerals Management at the Minerals Management Service within Salazar’s Department of the Interior within the Obama Administration, will retire May 31st. So unlike the teachers, this incompetent gets to retire (and likely retain all of his benefits) on his own schedule and hand out yet more rubber stamp waivers for two more weeks or so.

The above was reported recently by the Huffingtonpost along with this tidbit:

During his tenure at the Gulf regional office in Louisiana for the MMS, Chris Oynes played a central role in an offshore leasing foul-up that cost taxpayers an estimated $10 billion in lost revenue. The Interior Department’s inspector general called the matter "a jaw-dropping example of bureaucratic bungling." Despite that, the agency’s then-director promoted Mr. Oynes in 2007 to associate director for the offshore program.

One can understand this under W. But Obama has been in charge for 16 months now and if he can demand the firing of teachers for not coming through on the job, how about firing the entire staff of MMS AND his Secretary of the Interior too?

Why is it that accountability in the Obama administration seems to apply only to hapless teachers? Not to banking regulators, not to failed economic advisers, not to oil regulators, and not to people who have performed criminal/anti-human rights acts under both the Bush and Obama administrations?

Accountability Mr. President begins with you. One suspects the voters in November are going to hold your administration accountable too!

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