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Updated: June 16, 2010 18:59 IST

Obama appoints regulation expert to oil industry oversight role

Narayan Lakshman
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Thick oil in the northern regions of Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish, Los Angeles, effects of the Gulf oil spill. The appointment of Michael Bromwich in a oil industry oversight role is the second round of administrative appointments made by President Obama in the wake of the oil spill.
AP Thick oil in the northern regions of Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish, Los Angeles, effects of the Gulf oil spill. The appointment of Michael Bromwich in a oil industry oversight role is the second round of administrative appointments made by President Obama in the wake of the oil spill.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced that he had chosen Michael Bromwich, former Assistant Attorney and Justice Department Inspector General, to lead his administration's efforts to "accelerate reforms in the regulation and oversight of offshore oil drilling".

In a statement, the White House said Mr. Bromwich would lead the effort to reform the Minerals Management Service (MMS), with the aim of "restoring integrity and rigor to the relationship between federal regulatory officials and oil companies". It added that Mr. Bromwich would also seek to develop plans for a new oversight structure and replace long-standing and inadequate practices with a "gold-standard approach for environmental and safety regulation".

This is the second round of administrative appointments made by President Obama in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier last month, he announced the establishment of a bipartisan National Commission to investigate the oil spill from British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon rig. The Commission was charged with closely examining the activities of the offshore drilling industry and is co-chaired by former two-term Florida Governor and former Senator Bob Graham and also former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William Reilly.

The latest appointment comes with a promise by the President that Mr. Bromwich will be provided with a mandate to implement far-reaching change and will have the resources to accomplish that change. Mr. Obama said, "For a decade or more, the cosy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency was allowed to go unchecked. That allowed drilling permits to be issued in exchange not for safety plans, but assurances of safety from oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore."

In particular, Mr. Bromwich has been tasked with overseeing the reorganisation of the MMS to eliminate conflicts among the different missions of the agency which include establishing safety standards, regulating industry compliance, and collecting royalties, the White House noted. Further, InteriorSecretary Ken Salazar announced plans to split the MMS into three new divisions — the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Mr. Bromwich's work will also pick up the threads of the 30-day report by Mr. Salazar’s office, on the safety and environmental precautions for offshore drilling rigs and on the "forthcoming recommendations of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling".

In terms of his background, Mr. Bromwich has specialised in taking "broken agencies, applying rigorous reforms and oversight, and seeing positive results". According to the White House, his work has led to significant improvements in a variety of organisations ranging from Federal agencies to local police departments in Houston and Washington.

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