May 11th, 2010
10:58 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama administration reforming big oil oversight

Members of the Alabama National Guard build a sea wall on Dauphin Island in anticipation of the oil slick coming ashore.

Members of the Alabama National Guard build a sea wall on Dauphin Island in anticipation of the oil slick coming ashore.

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration, eager to show it is responding to the Gulf Coast oil spill, will announce plans Tuesday to split up an Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling, White House officials confirmed.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs first sent out a Twitter with the news, and then confirmed its accuracy, addressing the "plan to split offshore drilling agency - one to inspect oil rigs and enforce safety, other to oversee leases, royalties."

The official announcement by the Department of Interior will be made at an afternoon news conference with Secretary Ken Salazar. According to a DOI release, Salazar will address new reforms "to toughen oversight of offshore oil and gas operations."

Salazar will propose splitting the Minerals Management Service, which is the government agency that oversees the oil business, into two separate ones.

One agency would investigate oil companies, inspect oil rigs, and enforce safety regulations. The second would collect oil drilling royalties and oversee drilling leases.

As it stands now, MMS collects oil and gas drilling royalties and enforces regulations that apply to drilling.

Critics, like Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, say it's a conflict of interest for MMS to do both. In a letter to the Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall, Nelson wrote, "I ask that you determine in your investigation the extent to which the oil and natural gas industry exercised influence in the agency's rulemaking process." Nelson has long been an opponent of expanding offshore drilling.

Following the Gulf Coast oil spill, MMS was accused of understating the amount of previous oil spills in the region.

President Barack Obama ordered a 30 day review of offshore drilling following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Tuesday's reforms are expected to be the first of several changes coming from the Interior Department.

Filed under: Energy • Obama administration
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Maria H-Miami

    Oh, now their going to take steps, after the spill.

    Hey, Obama wanted to agree with President Bush and Sarah Palin on drill, drill, drill.

    I've been in favor of Sen. Nelson in opposing more offshore drilling.

    May 11, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Dave Harris

    It'll be fun watching the Republicans try to nix this as a "takeover of Big Oil". That'll go over real well with the millions of Gulf fishermen and business owners who've lost their livelihood. Republicans always claim that they know how to create jobs (although they never managed to do it during the Bush years). This would be a good time to do that.

    May 11, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. Our nation is divided and on the brink

    "eager to show it is responding" Right...a bit late to put on a show. We all know that if this disaster happened on Bush's watch the liberals with their media cohorts would have been slamming him without mercy for acting so slowly. Now how many weeks ago did the explosion take place? BTW where are all the conspiracy theorists on this one? After all, don't you think the Obama administration caused this disaster so he would have an excuse to ban offshore drilling?

    May 11, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  4. Marc L from NY

    What a shock. Another private sector business the government wants to oversee. Slowly but surely, more and more government oversight. That's how it happens, not all at once. That would be too obvious.

    May 11, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  5. j

    A waste of time-- Big oil won the battle aginst the Fed during the Valdeze oil spill in the 80`s when Pres. Carter was "educated" during a meeting with them shortly after the disaster.--- Remember????

    May 11, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  6. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Come drill in my State,and dont forget to fill my money bags.

    May 11, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Annie, Atlanta

    Too little, too late, perhaps. And why did he give BP the go-ahead to drill in the first place without a plan for catastrophic failure in place? Oh, silly me, I always forget. DC is now corporate owned.

    We need to get the corporations out of our politics, on both sides of the aisle, or this democracy experiment will have failed. And as an added bonus, the corporations (especially energy) are destroying this planet.

    May 11, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Holly

    No reform please...Just Stop! Enough is enough. Can we not learn that this is wrong? We will surely ruin ourselves if we keep drilling in our waters. We are all part of a natural balance and food chain and we have really messed this up. It will happen again because we are human, so just STOP the drilling. I just don't believe people who support offshore drilling deserve to put their foot in our precious waters if they live on our coasts....go somewhere else to get your precious oil. We are Americans and we can do better.
    Wake up Obama and America. We should be screaming at the top of our lungs to stop this. Be tough and just say no.
    Money and oil hunger should not win this fight, but life in the water and people's way of life on our Gulf Coast.?
    Sincerely, Holly Hoskamer,

    May 11, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. dennis

    Ok I know these guys arn't that stupid. Why didn't they put a shut off down at the bottom? With all the science that we have today they couldn't do that. What morons.

    May 11, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Victim of GOP Taliban

    It is about time. Good but Salazar should still be forced to resign – since he is a big oil yes man.

    May 11, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. Michael

    Take the cost directly out of their personal bank accounts and if they refuse, charge them with reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit bioterrorism, treason, aggravated assault, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and anything else they can come up with. BP and Halliburton should be classed as terrorist organizations for attacking the US population with dangerous chemicals, and then Liebermann can go after Cheney for affiliation & strip him of his citizenship.

    May 11, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |

    There is a new sherrif in town, holding the free market accountable.
    Thank you Mr. President!!!

    May 11, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  13. Mike, FL

    Finally, we have an administration which saw the conflict of interest and is willing to act on it. The same people who collect fees from the oil industry is also responsible for safety regulation of the oil Industry for the last 30 years.

    May 11, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Jim

    OK, I agree that there's a potential conflict of interest...but let's make sure that the leasing side knows about what the inspection and safety side knows about the prospective (and incumbent) lessees.

    Despite all the information floating around Washington on any given day, it's amazing how often one hand doesn't know what the other is doing.

    And while we're at it, let's have an embedded independent auditor (at least one) to make sure the public is well served.

    May 11, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    In accordance with the Obozo philosophy, gasoline is just not expensive enough, so we need another bureaucracy paid for by the hardworkers to subsidize fuel costs for the dope smoking Obozo constiutents. You know that is always the angle. If it was something that needed to be done for hard working taxpayers like the ones currently having problems in Nashville, you would not hear anything from the slimy, corrupt Obama administration.

    May 11, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. Fed Up!

    They better beef up the oversight on oil companies since those three stooges testifying on Capitol Hill today can't seem to figure out who did what.

    May 11, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Darryl

    There you have it, now it time to one find out who what paid what to turn and look the other way. This Oil spill will cost the death of many because we was to blind by greed to see. Thank you President Obama. BP Oil executives need to be running scared now because they are busted in all of the lies and bribes.. There will be held accountable for this now and in the future.

    May 11, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |