Gulf leak oil slick. Image credit:Reuters
A New York Times news analysis reminds us that James G Watt, Interior Secretary Under President Reagan, formed the US Minerals Management Service back in 1982. This is the same James Watt who was once awarded a plaster foot with a bullet hole in it for his tendency to mouth off and foment culture wars. For an example, here's a cite from Wikipedia, "If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used." I digress. Watt personally set up the MMS to expedite resource extraction and to collect oil development revenues. It was the "Sage Brush Rebellion," remember? Little known fact about those MMS-collected revenues...The MMS collects and disburses billions of dollars every year for land and water conservation projects. From the MMS website:
MMS collects, accounts for, and disburses mineral revenues from Federal (including offshore) and American Indian lands, and contributes to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other special use funds, with Fiscal Year 2007 disbursements of $11.7 billion and more than $176 billion since 1982.I'm betting that little of that LAWCON money gets spent 'conserving' coal- and oil-rich land.
Here's the NYT news citation of James G Watts role.
The unusual structure of the agency has also helped thwart efforts to overhaul it, despite its problems. Established in 1982 by Interior Secretary James G. Watt, it was created by secretarial order, not legislation, a set-up that some lawmakers said made Congress pay less attention to it.MMS had 28 years to develop it's formal management systems to allow it to carry out the original intent. You don't change an agency like that by simply replacing it's Director. There are numerous employees, contractors, and hundreds of written procedures - three decades of administrative culture to turn around.
And because it is financed by the $13 billion a year it collects in oil royalties, it largely escapes the kind of scrutiny that other regulatory bodies get in the appropriations process.