Secretary Salazar and BOEMRE Director Bromwich recently announced the structures and responsibilities for two new, independent agencies that will carry out the offshore energy management and enforcement functions that were once assigned to the former Minerals Management Service (MMS). This announcement follows after the agency—now BOEMRE—was re-organized into three separate entities, with the first of those identified last fall in the creation of the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, which handles BOEMRE’s revenue collection.

As for these two new agencies, Salazar and Bromwichset forth tasks for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). BOEM will handle the resource development and energy management functions of BOEMRE. It will be responsible for managing development of the nation’s offshore resources, including: leasing, plan administration, environmental studies, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, resource evaluation, economic analysis and the renewable energy program.

BSEE will handle the safety and enforcement functions of BOEMRE. It will enforce safety and environmental regulations, with responsibilities that include: all field operations including permitting and research, inspections, offshore regulatory programs, oil spill response, and newly formed training and environmental compliance functions.

Along with these two new bureaus, BOEMRE is looking to strengthen the role of environmental review and analysis in both BSEE and BOEM through various structural and organizational mechanisms, including:

  • creation of a first-ever Chief Environmental Officer in BOEM;
  • separating environmental reviews from leasing in the regions in BOEM;
  • development of a new environmental compliance and enforcement function in BSEE; and
  • more prominent Oil Spill Response Plan review and enforcement in BSEE.

The re-organization is to be fully implemented by October 1, 2011.

Salazar and Bromwich also announced that they are establishing a permanent advisory body through which the nation’s leading scientific, engineering, and technical experts can provide input on improving offshore drilling safety, well containment, and spill response. Former Sandia National Laboratory Director Tom Hunter will lead the body, which will be called the Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee.

The Safety Committee will advise the BOEMRE Director and the Secretary on a variety of issues related to offshore energy safety, including drilling and workplace safety, well intervention and containment, and oil spill response. The Safety Committee also will facilitate collaborative research and development, training and execution in these and other areas relating to offshore energy safety. The Committee will have 13 members representing federal agencies, industry, academia, national labs, and various research organizations. A federal register notice soliciting nominations will be published soon.