Interior Dept. Scandal Rocks Drilling Debate

Lawmakers, voting next week, question ability to handle lease revenues
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2008 3:12 PM CDT
A Chevron oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is seen Aug. 19, 2008.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Revelations that Interior Department employees were literally in bed with Big Oil have given fresh ammunition to congressional Democrats seeking to limit offshore drilling, the AP reports. Lawmakers say serious question have been raised about the agency's integrity after investigations found that employees responsible for collecting oil and gas royalties accepted gifts, took drugs and had sex with energy-company reps.

"This is why we must not allow Big Oil's agenda to be jammed through Congress," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and fierce opponent of offshore drilling. Debate starts today on a compromise deal that, as part of a broader energy package, would give states the option of allowing drilling 50 miles or more offshore. The deal would require oil firms to pay extra royalties.