Tomorrow former Interior Secretary (and former Idaho Governor) Dirk Kempthorne is scheduled to appear before the U.S. House Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Energy and Environment, as one of several witnesses about the subject, "The Role of the Interior Department in the Deepwater Horizon Disaster."
Since Kempthorne left the Interior Department a year and a half ago, and well more than a year before the BP gulf disaster, you might wonder what he'd have to offer. But bear in mind that decisions, policies and personnel in government agencies can continue generating ripple effects for years after the top dudes depart. And bear in mind what was said and reported about Kempthorne's tenure at Interior.
This isn't the first time a spotlight has been shone on the department in those years. Of the results of one 2008 inquiry, Representative Nick Rahall summarized: “The results of this investigation paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the Interior Department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another’s misdeeds.”
But the issues aren't just generic at Interior; they are also specific at the Minerals Management Service, the division of Interior responsible for overseeing drilling operations like BP's in the Gulf, and which has come under a great of criticism in the last couple of months.
During Kempthorne's tenure, which ran for two and a half years up until January 2009, the agency had a string of problems. The New York Times reported this in September 2008 (after he'd been in charge more than two years): "As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct. . . . The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch."
The hearing cranks up at 8 a.m. MTN/7 a.m. PAC, tomorrow morning. Might be entertaining.