by Jim Nintzel
This week's "Slick Politics" examined the Center for Biological Diversity's concerns over the permitting process for deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was revising his plan to divide Minerals Management Service, the scandal-plagued agency that oversees leases with oil companies that do business with the feds:
In Washington, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he was dividing the troubled Minerals Management Service into three offices reporting to two different senior managers at Interior. The move amounts to the dismantling of an agency that has been scarred by scandal for years and has come under criticism for poor oversight of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
A new bureau of ocean energy management would oversee development of offshore resources, including oil, gas and wind, and would be responsible for planning and leasing decisions. A bureau of safety and environmental enforcement would enforce regulations and perform other police functions.
Both offices would report to the assistant secretary of interior for land and minerals management. A third office would be responsible for revenue collection; it would report to the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget.
The response from Keiran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity:
“Secretary Salazar seems to have listened to critics who pointed out that his plan last week to divide the Minerals Management Service in two did nothing to address the agency’s conflict of interest because it put the environmental-permitting process in the same division with the revenue-collection process. Today’s announcement for the first time splits out the environmental-permitting program.
“It is only a baby step forward, but at least it is in the right direction.
“However, nothing in this procedural reform ensures that the Minerals Management Service will fix its substantive failures that contributed to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The secretary should order the agency to permanently cease issuance of all oil-drilling approvals under environmental waivers. He should order a halt to the issuance of drilling approvals until the agency obtains the legally required permits under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“Confidence in the Department of the Interior will not be restored until the American people start seeing real substantive reforms.”