Salazar Splits Minerals Management Service in Three
WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2010 (ENS) - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today restructured the Minerals Management Service, dividing its three conflicting functions into separate entities, each with an independent set of responsibilities.

One of the new divisions will have oversight of safety and environmental protection in all offshore energy activities, such as oil drilling.

A second division will take care of leasing federal waters for conventional and renewable energy resources, and the third will collect and distribute revenues.

"The Minerals Management Service has three distinct and conflicting missions that for the benefit of effective enforcement, energy development, and revenue collection must be divided," said Salazar.

Oil rigs and ships assemble at the scene of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire in April. Oil is still spilling from the damaged wellhead a month after the incident. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

Criticized for the corrupt behavior of its employees and their coziness with the industry they were supposed to regulate, the Minerals Management Service will cease to exist and three new agencies will take over.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be a new bureau under the supervision of the assistant secretary for land and minerals management. It will be responsible for the sustainable development of the Outer Continental Shelf's conventional and renewable energy resources, including resource evaluation, planning, and other activities related to leasing.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is another new bureau that will also come under the supervision of the assistant secretary for land and minerals management. This bureau will be responsible for ensuring comprehensive oversight, safety, and environmental protection in all offshore energy activities.

Oversight of these two new divisions will be handed to the current assistant secretary for land and minerals management Wilma Lewis, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and a former inspector general for the Department of the Interior.

The third new division will be the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. Under the supervision of the assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget, this office will be responsible for the royalty and revenue management function including the collection and distribution of revenue, auditing and compliance, and asset management.

The current assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget is Rhea Suh, who came to the Interior Department from a career working with granting foundations - the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation - where she handled large amounts of money.

During the Clinton administration, Suh served as a senior legislative assistant on the staff of Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Republican, whose Senate seat was won by Democrat Ken Salazar in the November 2004 election. In Senator Campbell's office, Suh worked on public lands management and regulatory issues with respect to energy, air and water.

"The employees of the MMS deserve an organizational structure that fits the missions they are asked to carry out," said Salazar. "With this restructuring, we will bring greater clarity to the roles and responsibilities of the department while strengthening oversight of the companies that develop energy in our nation's waters."

Secretary of the Interior James Watt created the Minerals Management Service by Secretarial Order on January 19, 1982, during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. He consolidated minerals revenue management from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Since then, MMS has been managing the collection of revenues generated from programs including: oil and gas, coal, metals, potash, and renewable energy resources.

Since 1982, MMS has collected over $210 billion in revenues and distributed them to states, tribes, counties, and the federal treasury. MMS collects some $13 billion annually, about 95 percent of the revenue that the Department of the Interior collects as a whole.

Minerals Management Service is also the federal agency that manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.

MMS develops and implements plans for leasing conventional and renewable energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf. It is also responsible for overseeing offshore energy operations and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

The changes announced today are the latest in a series of reforms to the Minerals Management Service that began in January 2009 when President Barack Obama took office.

Salazar explained that these reforms include: the establishment of new ethics standards; termination of the controversial royalty-in-kind program; balancing of the agency's mandate to include offshore wind and renewable energy production; implementing recommendations of the Inspector General and independent reviewers; directing an independent Marine Board review of MMS's inspection program for offshore facilities; canceling proposed offshore lease sales in Bristol Bay and the Arctic Ocean; and establishing a clear, orderly, and science-based process for determining which areas on the Outer Continental Shelf may be appropriate for oil and gas development.

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