Efforts to reorganize the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) may not be striking the right balance between getting the agency's house in order and delivering essential services, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). From GAO's written testimony submitted last week to the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies:
We are concerned about Interior's capacity to find the proper balance—particularly in today's fiscally constrained environment—given its history of management problems and challenges in the human capital area. Specifically, we are concerned about Interior's ability to undertake this reorganization while providing reasonable assurance that billions of dollars of revenues owed to the public are being properly assessed and collected and that oversight of oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands and waters maintains an appropriate balance between efficiency and timeliness on one hand, and protection of the environment and operational safety on the other.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the reorganization of BOEMRE, the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service (MMS), after the Gulf oil spill brought the agency's dysfunction into the limelight. GAO released its testimony the day after BOEMRE approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the BP oil spill—and just weeks after the investigative arm of Congress added "Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources" to its biannual high-risk list.
The GAO testimony also suggests that BOEMRE may not be going far enough with its efforts to collect more accurate and reliable oil production data. From the testimony:
As a result of Interior's lack of consistent and reliable data on the production and sale of oil and gas from federal lands, Interior could not provide reasonable assurance that it was assessing and collecting the appropriate amount of royalties on this production. We made a number of recommendations to Interior to improve controls on the accuracy and reliability of royalty data. Interior generally agreed with our recommendations and is working to implement many of them, but these efforts are not complete, and it is uncertain at this time if the efforts will fully address our concerns. (Emphasis added)
This data, of course, is essential to BEOMRE's royalty collection function—which brings in a significant amount of revenue for taxpayers.
Bryan Rahija edits POGO's blog.
Unofficial symbol for the agency formerly known as MMS: POGO graphics department.