The federal agency in charge of regulating offshore oil and gas drilling has a new name and a new ethics policy. Neither will do any good unless crooked employees are kept off the agency's payroll.
Once called the Minerals Management Service, the agency was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management after several scandals surfaced. This week, bureau officials announced a new ethics policy aimed at curbing misbehavior.
Under the new policy, bureau employees must notify superiors about potential conflicts of interest - and are not permitted to conduct inspections or other official duties when companies they must deal with have bureau workers' family members or friends on the payroll.
That's a start. But the old MMS was riddled with behavior that was unethical and often illegal under the old rules. Employees broke them. Some MMS workers had sex with representatives of companies they were supposed to be regulating and accepted gifts from the firms. Use of illegal drugs among a few MMS workers was reported. One admitted he was using drugs during an inspection trip.
Bureau officials say the bad employees have been cleared out. We hope so - and, where appropriate, we hope the agency pursues criminal charges against them.
But the renamed agency now must cope with a culture of corruption. The only way to eliminate it is to make it clear - by strict enforcement of new ethics rules - that conflicts of interest and other misbehavior will not be tolerated.