The Interior Department is taking a positive and much-needed step with its plans to restructure the Minerals Management Service, Rep. Edolphous Towns (D-NY) tells the DorobekInsider.
In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, the Interior Department plans to separate the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling into three independent divisions in an effort to break up its energy development, enforcement and revenue collecting functions.
Rep. Towns talked to the DorobekInsider Tuesday after returning from a trip to the Gulf to review the spill.
The Congressman, who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says that the agency’s current structure has led to inefficiency and conflicts of interest that influenced the way MMS handled the Gulf oil spill.
“MMS…I’m not sure that they did what they were supposed to do. Many people feel as I do, that they went to sleep at the switch and they were not on top of things,” says Towns.
Rep. Towns says that the problems are the close relationship between the oil industry and the government, as well as the lack of transparency about operations within MMS.
“When you look at the revolving door process, that people that work for MMS ended up going to the industry, and in some instances, people left the industry and came to MMS — that is something you really have to guard against,” says Towns.
Towns says there needs to be better guidelines in place to separate further separate the line between government regulatory operations and the oil industry.
“If you’re going to go to the industry, you have to be out (of MMS) a certain time before you do it,” says Towns.
To help with the restructuring, the committee wants to share its findings with MSS from the Committee’s recent trip to the Gulf region.
“I’m hoping that the restructuring is really going to meaningful, and I think that it will. Because if you separate the regulatory from the fines…you structure it in a way where these are independent departments working to make certain..that the people in the area are no longer hurt. I think that would be a giant step in the right direction,” says Towns.