Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, today announced her intention to convene a hearing in the next few weeks on the Administration’s proposal to restructure the Minerals Management Service (MMS). MMS is the primary federal agency tasked with overseeing offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, and has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

On May 11, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his intention to restructure MMS by splitting up the two primary responsibilities of the agency – oil royalty revenue collection on the one hand and environmental and safety oversight on the other. 

Today, Secretary Salazar sent a letter to Chairman Feinstein with further details about the proposed reorganization. He also affirmed his commitment to respecting the Subcommittee’s longstanding oversight guidelines, which require the Interior Department to obtain the approval of the Subcommittee before any major adjustments are made to the Department’s budgetary priorities or organizational structure.

Here is a statement from Senator Feinstein about the proposed restructuring and upcoming hearing:

“I’ve come to realize that the Minerals Management Service is a relatively weak agency that lacks appropriate enforcement authority and has an intrinsic conflict of interest in that it collects revenue from an industry it is tasked with regulating.

I’m pleased that Secretary Salazar has committed to working with the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on his proposal to reorganize MMS. I’ve let him know that I intend to hold a hearing soon, and I believe he will be happy to accommodate us. I would anticipate that we convene the hearing as soon the Department has formalized its reprogramming request and is prepared to submit it to Congress. 

The hearing will be an opportunity to determine whether this proposed reorganization can result in greater environmental and safety oversight of offshore drilling – and whether it can help prevent ethical misconduct by agency employees.

The spill in the Gulf only serves to demonstrate that oil drilling in critical places off of our coastlines carries with it real risk. It seems to me that we need to have some very clear standards and limits in place before drilling resumes and any new rigs are able to be placed offshore.  Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to ensure these spills never again happen.”