Salazar orders Minerals Management Service to split three ways

On Wednesday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an executive order splitting the Minerals Management Service into three separate entities. The reorganization is intended to improve management and oversight of offshore drilling activities in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last month.

The executive order creates the Ocean Energy Management bureau, which will be responsible for all conventional and renewable energy management functions, such as resource evaluation, planning and leasing.

The Safety and Environmental Enforcement bureau will be responsible for ensuring compliance with safety and environmental laws and regulations. It will have the authority to inspect, investigate, summon witnesses and produce evidence, levy penalties, cancel or suspend activities, and oversee safety and response activities.

Both bureaus will be under the supervision of the assistant secretary for land and minerals management.

A third entity, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, will be overseen by the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget. All onshore and offshore royalty and revenue management activities will be transferred to the new office, including collection, distribution, auditing, compliance, investigation and enforcement, and asset management functions.

MMS collects about $13 billion annually on behalf of taxpayers, mostly in royalties from oil and gas leases.

The two senior Interior Department executives responsible for land and minerals management; and policy, management and budget have 30 days to come up with a plan for implementing the order in consultation with the White House and key congressional committees.

"The employees of the MMS deserve an organizational structure that fits the missions they are asked to carry out," Salazar said Wednesday. "With this restructuring, we will bring greater clarity to the roles and responsibilities of the department while strengthening oversight of the companies that develop energy in our nation's waters."

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