Interior creates two agencies to replace MMS

Thursday - 2/10/2011, 10:08am EST

Michael Bromwich, director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement , Dept. of Interior

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Two new independent agencies have been created by the Interior Department to oversee offshore oil drilling. The new bureaus replace the former Minerals Management Service (MMS), which was in place when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred last April.

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, will oversee these two agencies. He told Federal News Radio the new agencies have been created with specific, clear missions in place.

"The prior agency, MMS," said Bromwich, "had to juggle competing and conflicting missions which included leasing and development on the one hand, safety and enforcement on the second hand, and revenue collection on the third hand."

Now, with reorganization, said Bromwich, the functions are separated, conflicts are eliminated among functions, and a new structure has been created.

"The main job that I've had since I got here, in addition to dealing with various crisis elements flowing from Deepwater Horizon, has been to drive that reorganization and create those three separate agencies."

Revenue collection was handed over to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue on October first of last year, leaving Bromwich to concentrate on the two remaining new agencies: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The new look, and new missions of the agencies, said Bromwich, are helping to put a fresh face on what use to be MMS.

Were there some issues of individual corruption in the past? Absolutely, and those people have been disciplined or are gone. But the broader problems were really structural problems and traced back to the fact that the agency had been under-funded and under-resourced for its entire existance. So in dealing with the corruption issues, we've actually set up for the first time and investigations and review unit, that in conjunction with the inspector general's office here at Interior is responsible both for investigating allegations of misconduct against employees in the agency, but also has the very important and separate function of helping to drive an aggressive enforcement program aimed at operators - oil and gas companies that we regulate. And so we have set up that unit, we've staffed it with lawyers with Department of Justice experience, FBI agents to help us pursue those two missions.

Bromwish said those are small, but important steps, "that we've taken to right the ship and to put this agency moving forward pursuing the important missions that it has."