I mentioned back on Wednesday that the White House was considering the enactment of some of the recommendations of the Oil Spill Commission by executive order. Looks like they’re moving forward on that immediately.
The Obama administration has announced the creation of an agency to focus exclusively on safety in offshore drilling and production, part of an ongoing effort to overhaul lax oversight that investigators said contributed to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Speaking in unusually blunt terms, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich said Thursday that the government’s heightened commitment to safety meant that his agency was unlikely to issue offshore drilling permits at the rapid rate they were before the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 men and started the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
I see no reason to foreground speed over safety, so fine with me. And a federal judge in New Orleans agreed yesterday, rejecting a lawsuit from the industry that would have ordered the Interior Department to rubber-stamp drilling permits faster.
The new “Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement” would be independent of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. While BOEM would still deal with offshore development, the new bureau would regulate and enforce the industry. It’s almost exactly what the Oil Spill Commission recommended, especially if the enforcement agency is walled off from the leasing and collection of revenue at offshore facilities.
Bromwich’s full remarks can be found here. He said that his agency and the Interior Department would analyze the commission’s findings and make further recommendations in the future. Bromwich also asked for more funding for his new agency to continue building capacity.