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After watching President Obama announce his plans for reforming the permitting process and regulations on oil and gas drilling Thursday, a thought occurred to me: We sportsmen couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.

Of course, that’s because we’ve been demanding just such reforms for the better part of eight years.

As BP’s blown well continued the environmental mugging of the Gulf of Mexico, a steady stream of news reports revealed what sportsmen have been complaining about since the era of “regulatory reform” was ushered in about 10 years ago. Some of the highlights:

• The agency charged with enforcing offshore drilling regulations, the Minerals Management Service, also earned its income from the oil companies it regulated. That has now been labeled “an obvious conflict of interest.” You think?

• Under the Bush-Cheney regime, regulators were told to be helpers, not enforcers, to the oil business.

They took it to heart.

The MMS Inspector General released a report showing MMS regulators allowed oil companies to fill out government inspection reports required by law. And the inspectors also took gifts, tickets to bowl games, hunting trips – even sex and drugs – from the oil companies.

They probably saw nothing wrong with this because, as one of them explained, they were all “oil business”.

Larry Williamson, head of the MMS Lake Charles, La. office, told IG investigators that many inspectors had come from the industries, where they still had good friends. “Obviously, we’re all oil industry. Almost all of our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. They grew up in the same towns. Some of these people, they’ve been friends with all their life. They’ve been with these people since they were kids. They’ve hunted together. They fish together. They skeet shoot together. … They do this all the time.” (www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/us/25mms.html?scp=3&sq=mary%20kendall&st=cse).

No one doubted whom they were working for. It wasn’t you and me. It was the earl bidness.

* Those “regulatory reforms” reduced the time environmental agencies have to comment on drilling permits to 30 days–an impossible hurdle. Permitting agencies also have one year to either refuse or grant a permit application–hardly time for those other agencies to do their due diligence, especially since their staff and budgets have been trimmed.

President Obama claims his administration began “reforming” the reformers last year, but with the Gulf blowing up in his face, he finally realized that isn’t good enough. He pledged to put a moratorium on offshore drilling until current permits are reviewed, and he plans to work with Congress to roll back some of the regulatory roll backs of the previous administration.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Sportsmen’s groups have been demanding that action for many years.

Now that the president is talking our talk, let’s see if he’ll walk it.

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