Friday, May 14, 2010

More on Regulating Offshore Oil Drilling

Earlier this week, I blogged (here) about President Obama's plan to break up the Minerals Management Service into two agencies, one of which would negotiate leases with oil companies, while the other would regulate lessees to ensure public and environmental safety. Today's New York Times has a disturbing story (here) that illustrates why this reform is necessary (but probably not sufficient):
The Minerals Management Service, or M.M.S., also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists.

Those scientists said they were also regularly pressured by agency officials to change the findings of their internal studies if they predicted that an accident was likely to occur or if wildlife might be harmed.
There is no reason to believe that merely breaking the agency in two, with both still within the Interior Department, would prevent this kind of pressure from undermining environmental protections in the future. Regulatory authority should, instead, be vested in an independent agency, perhaps the EPA.

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