Minerals Management Service – what went wrong

Feature story in today’s Wash. Post about the MMS. How the Minerals Management Service’s partnership with industry led to failure; Wash. Post, August 24.

The story of how a little-known federal agency became an extension of the industry it oversaw spans three decades and four presidents. It began in 1982 with a major change in the way the nation managed its natural resources, picked up pace with initiatives to streamline bureaucracy in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and ended after the April 20 BP blowout with the Obama administration’s abrupt decision to undo the partnership.

Few in positions of power in Washington paid close attention to MMS and the hard-to-understand world it was charged with regulating. When they did, it was often to pressure the agency to increase the money it earned from leases it sold and the production
that followed. Over its 28-year history, MMS grew to become one the government’s largest revenue collectors, after the Internal Revenue Service.

Senior Interior officials who have spent the past four months trying to manage the ecological and public relations disaster in the gulf said they have run out patience with the [BP] partnership. “That path didn’t work, and the public got let down in an enormous way,” Strickland says. “There is now agreement – whether everyone in the industry agrees or not, because it’s coming, it’s happening – we need more oversight, more regulation.”

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