One of the biggest scandals surrounding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the incompetence and worse of its regulator, the Minerals Management Service. Can pro-energy regulators also protect the environment? It seems unlikely.MMS was supposed to be the safety and environmental regulator for offshore oil drilling, while simultaneously promoting exploitation of the offshore oil resource. Which of these objectives had higher priority? The name said it all. News reports suggest that MMS members were regularly wined, dined, and otherwise entertained by oil industry representatives. MMS members had close ties to the oil industry, and were more sympathetic to their point of view than to that of the public. (“Regulatory capture”). Members of the U.S. Congress says they were guilty of “mismanagement and corruption”.
The Obama administration has cleaned house, and has now rebranded the MMS as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. To no one’s surprise, the new name signals a complete change in the agency’s method, management, and approach. The Bureau has posted a fascinating electronic reading room for those who want source documents on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Meanwhile, Canada has just eliminated the CEAA independent environmental review of major energy projects, conferring sole approval responsibility on the National Energy Board, which is much more friendly to the oil industry. Does this really sound like a good idea?