MMS needs more than a facelift

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has brought new attention to the Minerals Management Service, the obscure branch of the Department of Interior responsible for overseeing offshore oil and gas production.  MMS has been on the hot seat together with BP, Transocean, and Halliburton as Congressional committees and others have begun to look at the combination of technical and regulatory failings that allowed this human and environmental tragedy.

The initial response from the administration has been positive — a commitment to split MMS into pieces, in the hope that the regulatory and enforcement arm can be more independent of the arm responsible for leasing federal lands for offshore development and collecting the resulting revenues.  While it’s a positive start, the administration’s plan doesn’t go deep enough to reform an agency that has been thoroughly captured by the industry its expected to regulate. In an op-ed published today in the Los Angeles Times, Eric and I explain why the plan as so far explained is insufficient and what more needs to be done.

, , ,

Reader Comments

2 Replies to “MMS needs more than a facelift”

  1. While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.

    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)

    There are new estimates that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day: that’s a far cry from BP’s estimated 5,000 barrels a day. If BP’s estimates are correct, the total amount of oil now in the Gulf would be approximately 150,000 barrels (or 6,300,000 gallons). That’s barely enough to fill 286 swimming pools: sixteen feet, by thirty-two feet, by eight and a half feet deep. That wouldn’t cover an area the size of New York City, let alone an area the size of Delaware. Obviously, the spill is much larger than we are being led to believe. If the leak can’t be stopped, in a year’s time, we’ll have roughly 18,250,000 barrels of oil (or 766,500,000 gallons) in our oceans, killing our marine and animal wildlife. Such a calamity would be environmentally and economically disastrous. I’m not a religious man, but I pray that BP and our government work fast to end this catastrophe.

Comments are closed.

About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

READ more