Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Press Room:  For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release – January 19, 2011
Department of Interior Announces New Safety, Environmental Oversight Offices
Oversight Offices Much-Needed Step to Changing Industry Culture

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of the Interior announced the creation of two new offices - the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee - that will oversee offshore oil and gas development and environmental safety. This restructuring of the Minerals Management Service follows the Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling’s report on the BP disaster in the Gulf calling for widespread reform of the offshore drilling industry, including better safety regulations and more stringent enforcement by federal agencies.

Statement of Sierra Club Lands Protection Program Director Athan Manuel
"The Deepwater Horizon tragedy showed just how flawed and broken our current regulatory system really is. The creation of specific safety and environmental oversight offices is a much-needed move to ensure that our workers, our oceans and our coastlines are protected from the interests of corporate polluters. Sadly, industry-wide disregard for the health and safety of its workers persists. We are encouraged, however, to see that the Department of Interior is already putting the Oil Spill Commission’s recommendations into action.

A move away from the Minerals Management Service’s traditional role as an agency whose narrow responsibilities included collecting funds and issuing permits is proof that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is taking significant steps to prioritize safety over corporate special interests. We look forward to working with the forthcoming chief environmental officer and taking part in an ongoing conversation about the safety of American workers and the protection of the environment.

We also call on Congress to address the funding needs of these new offices to ensure that these necessary safety and oversight efforts become an implemented reality. If we hope to learn the lessons of the BP oil disaster and prevent this tragedy from happening again, we will need to fully fund oversight and enforcement.

But the only real way to ensure we don't see another drilling disaster is to start reducing our dependence on oil now. We already have efficiency technology and clean energy solutions that will help move our nation beyond oil and make offshore drilling unnecessary."