US overhauls agency in charge of offshore drilling
The US agency that regulates offshore drilling was broken up into three separate agencies Wednesday as part of a move to end cozy industry relationships exposed by the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, officials said.
The shake-up came a day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers the Minerals Management Service, which issued lucrative offshore exploration leases and was also responsible for enforcing safety rules, needed to be cleaned up.
The MMS was severely criticized for being lax on safety after explosions send a BP-leased offshore oil rig to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, unleashing a catastrophic oil spill.
President Barack Obama ordered “top to bottom” reform of the agency after it was accused of allowing BP and other oil companies to drill in the Gulf without first obtaining required permits.
Salazar broke MMS into three separate agencies, each independent of the other and handling one of the three missions once handled by the agency.
The first of the three new agencies, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will be responsible for developing offshore energy resources, both renewable and conventional, and will be in charge of leasing activities.
The new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will be responsible for safety and environmental protection in offshore energy activities, and will have the authority to levy penalties on violators.
The third new agency, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, will collect and distribute revenues generated by activities including oil and gas exploration, coal mining and renewable energy resources.