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Should Minerals Management Split From Interior Dept.?

By Ed O'Keefe

The scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service should be separated from the Interior Department and established as an independent agency, according to a bill proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said MMS would "benefit from a divorce" from Interior.

Darrell Issa
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

“Going all the way back to the 1920s and the Teapot Dome scandal, the Department of the Interior has failed to ensure that the American people receive the payments they are entitled to from oil and natural gas royalties,” Issa said in a statement. He has led an investigation into the agency's actions since 2006.

Interior "has a vastly different mission than MMS and needs to be held accountable for its failure to address longstanding problems that are costing Americans billions in lost revenues," Issa said.

MMS operates a program that collects royalty in kind payments on federal oil and gas leases. A Sept. 2008 New York Times report first revealed serious concerns with some members of the agency's leadership, including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the Justice Department to investigate reports of abuse at MMS almost immediately after taking office in January. He announced plans to reform ethics policies at the agency and the entire department from a White House podium seven days into the Obama administration. The Justice Department launched a criminal investigation last month of former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton to determine whether she used her position to steer oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell, her current employer.

The Interior Department is reviewing Issa's bill, spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said.

Thoughts? The comments section awaits you.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 8, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Congress  
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Comments

Yes, MMS needs to be separated from Interior, but not for the reasons noted in O'Keefe's article. Interior is an agency devoted to "protecting" while the mission of MMS is "developing". If MMS were a separate agency maybe we would hear more of the positive side of resource development, i.e., oil and natural gas!!

Posted by: jhagan01 | October 9, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

MMS is a political dumping ground. Of course, the Republicans want it separated so they can hopefully keep all those Bushies who are ensconsed there to continue the Bush policies. It's a goldmine (literally). Clean out MMS of all the Bush people.

Posted by: pkbishop | October 9, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

As a retired MMS employee, it is important to understand that the MMS has multiple missions. One is to collect revenue for the federal government (Royalty Management) and the other is to protect the environment (Offshore Energy). The problems discussed in this article are related to the Royalty Management Program that has approximately 1000 employees. The Offshore Energy Section Is responsible for Protecting the Environment. How the MMS is organized creates a conflict in and of itself. The Royalty Management section need very different leadership from the Offshore Energy Function, which should remain in Interior. The missions are very different, the job functions are different, and the missions are in significant conflict of each other.

Posted by: dryoesting | October 9, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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