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Gulf oil spill: Offshore drilling watchdog agency formally split up

May 19, 2010 |  4:33 pm

Salazartestify Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a directive on Wednesday that will split the troubled Minerals Management Service into three branches – one to lease federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf for oil, gas and renewable energy development; one to enforce environmental and safety regulations; and one to collect royalties owed to the government.

The directive expands on Salazar’s announcement last week, in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, that he would break up the agency’s functions to avoid conflicts between its revenue-generating and energy-development-regulating duties. The agency has drawn repeated criticism from watchdog groups and auditors for a variety of problems, including lax royalty collection and a cozy relationship with industry.

Salazar said the move, which does not require congressional approval would not be the last MMS reform step he takes. He hailed the newly created Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, in particular, saying it would be “the police of all offshore oil and gas operations.”

-- Jim Tankersley in Washington

Photo: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testifies before Congress Tuesday. Credit: P.M. Monsivais / Associated Press