Doremus in LAT: Administration's Response to BP Oil Spill Needs to Go Beyond Splitting MMS

by Ben Somberg

May 20, 2010

CPR Member Scholar Holly Doremus and fellow UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Eric Biber have penned an op-ed in today's LA Times arguing that the Administration's plan to split the Minerals Management Service in two in response to the BP oil spill disaster falls short of what's needed.

Write Doremus and Biber:

The political pressure to prioritize rapid development over safety won't evaporate if the MMS is split. The new safety agency would still be under the supervision of the Department of Interior, where it would have to compete with its bureaucratic sibling. Environmental and safety interests have been losing that competition for years. Giving them a new name and logo won't automatically change that outcome.

Second, environmental protection is not just a matter of enforcing a clear set of regulations as wells are being drilled or operated. The key environmental questions come much earlier, when the MMS decides where to offer leases, sells those leases and approves permits for exploration and development. That's when the fateful decision was made to allow oil production in ultra-deep waters, on the basis of what turned out to have been absurdly rosy predictions about the likelihood and magnitude of spills and about the efficacy of response measures. Under the administration's plan, those key decisions would remain with the leasing agency, not with the newly independent enforcement arm.

Check it out.

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