The Congresspedia staff has recently been quietly working with a number of research and advocacy organizations to build more articles on federal legislation and policy. Today we're publicly unveiling the first of these articles: a page on U.S. federal oil and gas royalties that we worked on with the Project on Government Oversight. Beth Daley, POGO's Director of Investigations (and now SourceWatch/Congresspedia user "Bethdaley") explains why POGO thinks this topic is important:
Fees collected from oil and gas companies drilling on federal and Native American lands — known as royalties — are one of the largest sources of income for the federal government. The little-known agency collecting those royalties, the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS), has recently been the focus of numerous controversies. Starting in 2006, numerous reports raised questions about whether the MMS was incompetent and too cozy with the oil industry. At the same time, the agency's own employees have blown the whistle, filing anti-fraud lawsuits to collect on oil and gas royalties which the MMS left uncollected.
Multiple investigations are now underway into the agency by the Justice Department, Government Accountability Office, Department of Interior Inspector General, and Congressional Committees. This year, the Congress will hold numerous hearings to report on the findings of some of those investigations and to grapple with questions about the government's royalty collection policies and practices. Congress will also likely consider legislation to reform the MMS for the first time in many years. We hope this article will help inform citizens about this issue and look forward to working with citizen journalists who want to help expand it.
This kind of collaboration between citizen journalists and DC-based wonks is the kind of breaking-down-walls participatory democracy that we had in mind when we started this project. While many of the organizations we're working with have a distinct point of view, they have each committed to sticking to the documented facts, in accordance with SourceWatch's policies. They may note their opposition or support of a bill, but do so in a way that identifies it as an opinion and what the source was.
We will be rolling out many more of these articles in the coming weeks and if you are a supporter or employee of an organization that would like to take part, here's all the information you need to get started. If you'd like to collaborate on the article on U.S. federal oil and gas royalties and want to get in touch with Beth, you can leave a note on her talk page or at the POGO blog.