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Professors Urge Major Reform of U.S. Minerals Management Service

BP oil spill

A Los Angeles Times op-ed written by Berkeley Law professors Eric Biber and Holly Doremus ’91 argues that the federal agency which oversees oil and gas production needs major reform to prevent another disaster.

In the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a blazing spotlight has been cast on the scandal-plagued U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS). The agency had dismissed the prospects of a large spill and, as Biber and Doremus note, “failed to demand that BP have a realistic response plan in place before drilling.” The op-ed, which was picked up by several newspapers including the Korea Herald, is available here.

The Obama administration recently announced its intent to split MMS into two agencies, one for overseeing offshore leasing and development permits and one for environmental and safety enforcement. But Biber and Doremus contend that won’t fully protect workers or fragile coastal environments from another catastrophe. They offer recommendations for reforming MMS—including more rigorous environmental and safety review of proposed operations—and urge a “wholesale shift in the agency’s culture.”

Photo by the U.S. Coast Guard

6/4/2010