Inspection Report: DOE-OIG-18-05

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October 26, 2017

Allegations of Health and Safety Concerns at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

The mission of the Department of Energy’s Office of Petroleum Reserves is to protect the United States from severe petroleum supply interruptions through the acquisition, storage, distribution, and management of emergency petroleum stocks and to fulfill the United States obligations under the International Energy Program.  In support of this mission, the Office of Petroleum Reserves manages the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).  The four SPR storage sites are Bryan Mound and Big Hill in Texas, and Bayou Choctaw and West Hackberry in Louisiana.  The Assistant Secretary for the Department’s Office of Fossil Energy has overall program responsibility for achieving the goals and objectives of SPR.  This responsibility is delegated to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Petroleum Reserves and is exercised through the Office of Fossil Energy in Washington, DC and the SPR Project Management Office in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

On May 9, 2016, the United States Office of Special Counsel referred a whistleblower disclosure to the Secretary of Energy (OSC File No. DI-16-2328).  The Secretary of Energy referred the issue to the Office of Inspector General for evaluation.  In the disclosure, the complainant alleged health and safety concerns related to two accidents that had occurred at Bryan Mound in 2015 and 2006, and a 2013 accident at West Hackberry.  The complainant made allegations associated with internal floating roof failures, failure to implement safety measures, and improper monetary awards.  In addition, the complainant made allegations concerning an employee-owned warehouse, improper relationships between Federal and contractor employees, and non-competitive subcontracts awarded at SPR.

During our inspection, we partially substantiated 3 of the 16 complainant’s allegations regarding SPR by confirming some specific details included in the allegations.  However, no impact to worker health and safety was identified.  Accordingly, we did not make any formal recommendations.  In addition, the Office of Inspector General plans to review infrastructure improvements at the SPR in fiscal year 2018.

Topic: Management & Administration