No More Fox Watching the Henhouse - Salazar Splits Up Mineral Management Service

ken salazar photo

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speaking at a press conference on oil drilling safety. Photo: MMS

Coming in from a number of sources, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced that the Mineral Management Service will be split into two parts: One to manage and collect revenue ($14 billion in annual royalties) from federal oil and gas leases and the other to inspect and enforce environmental and safety regulations on these. Prior to this both competing functions were handled in the same department.The LA Times sums it up well:

The management service has drawn repeated criticism from outside auditors and internal whistleblowers in recent years, largely from a relationship with industry that critics call too cosy.

Scores of interviews and federal documents showed the management service and oil companies were not prepared for the massive spill a mile below the ocean surface, because the service's regulations and risk assessment had not kept pace with rapidly changing drilling technologies that enabled riskier deepwater exploration.

Whether this move really will satisfy critics of the Obama administration response to the BP oil spill, and of Secretary Salazar himself, remains to be seen.

MMS Continued to Approve New Drilling Post-Disaster
Representative of that criticism, prior to the announcement and referring to the fact that the MMS approved 27 new Gulf drilling operations after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity said, "The MMS has learned absolutely nothing from this national catastrophe. It is still illegally exempting dangerous offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico from all environmental review."

Split a 'Good First Step' Says WWF
Post-announcement, WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts described the decision as being a good first step but ultimately just that.

"Secretary Salazar's plan to split the Minerals Management Service into two separate agencies is an important step to correct clear regulatory failures and ensure improved worker safety and greater environmental protections," Roberts said. "But the only way to fully understand what happened in the gulf and how to prevent such an occurrence in the future is to have a thorough investigation by an independent panel of experts."

WWF is calling for a halt on all new offshore oil drilling and an independent commission to examine the BP oil spill.

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More on the BP Oil Spill:
The BP Oils Spill as Seen by Astronauts on the ISS
BP Containment Dome Fails to Stop Oil Geyser, Suffers "Complications"
From Dispersants to Mushrooms and Hair: How to Clean Up an Oil Spill

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