Former Justice Official To Lead Oil Industry Regulator : The Two-Way Former Justice Official To Lead Oil Industry Regulator
NPR logo Former Justice Official To Lead Oil Industry Regulator

Former Justice Official To Lead Oil Industry Regulator

The agency that regulates the energy industry, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Agency, has gotten blamed, ever since the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20, for being part of the problem, a captive to the industry it's supposed to oversee.

That led to lax oversight which critics say helped lead to the accident in the first place.

President Barack Obama has pledged changes and, to that end, he named a former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich to head the agency.

An excerpt from a White House statement:

“For a decade or more, the cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency was allowed to go unchecked.  That allowed drilling permits to be issued in exchange not for safety plans, but assurances of safety from oil companies.  That cannot and will not happen anymore,” President Obama said.

Specifically, Bromwich will oversee the reorganization of the MMS to eliminate conflicts among the different missions of the agency which include establishing safety standards, regulating industry compliance, and collecting royalties.  These actions will ensure that there is no conflict of interest, real or perceived, in oil industry oversight.  Secretary Salazar has announced plans to split MMS into three new divisions – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue – the most significant in a series of Interior Department reforms launched since January 2009.

Bromwich replaces Elizabeth Birnbaum who had only been in the position for ten months but nevertheless resigned under pressure since the Obama Administration needed someone to fall on her sword.