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Trump Administration May Bring Back Scandal Plagued Mineral Management Services 7 Years After Deepwater Horizon Explosion

Could the Minerals Management Service be making a comeback?

The scandal-plagued federal agency was broken up following the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig explosion. But a recent report suggests that the Trump Administration could soon undo those reforms.

Before Deepwater Horizon: A Closer Relationship with the Offshore Drilling Industry

The April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Explosion killed 11 workers and seriously injured 17 others. By the time the blown-out Macondo well was capped 87 days later, an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mineral Management Service was the U.S. agency responsible for policing the Deepwater rig and other off-drilling enterprises. But even before the disaster, Minerals Management had already earned a tarnished reputation, thanks to a Bush-era ethics scandal highlighted by cocaine use, sexual misconduct and financial wrongdoing. Critics had long complained that the agency was far too cozy with the very industry it was supposed to regulate.

A presidential commission tasked with investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster raised serious questions about the ability of Minerals Management to regulate the offshore drilling industry.

In May 2010, the Obama Administration announced that the regulator would be split into three separate agencies:

  • The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which polices offshore drilling safety
  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees the leasing of offshore tracts.
  • The Office of Natural Resources Revenue, which the handles royalty and revenue management for both offshore and onshore drilling activities.

Merging Safety and Leasing Regulations Will Endanger Oil Rig Worker Safety

Now is reporting that President Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, is considering a plan to merge the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Critics fear the plan could recreate the regulatory conflicts of interest that contributed to the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

“Our coastal communities — and even the oil industry — can’t afford a return to the bad old days of the safety cop and the leasing agent being the same person,” Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told Bloomberg via an emailed statement.

Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, issued a statement calling the proposed merger a “disaster for environmental and worker safety.” The group has called on both President Trump and Secretary Zinke to disavow the plan.

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When BP and Transocean initially refused to offer a settlement that fully compensated our clients and their families for all their injuries and losses, our Offshore Rig Explosion Lawyers immediately began preparing the cases for trial, putting together overwhelming evidence of the defendants’ gross negligence.

Less than 18 months after the explosion, our undefeated trial lawyers had negotiated confidential settlements on behalf of the Deepwater Horizon workers, securing their financial future.

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