Department of the Interior

Don’t Split The Agency; Change The Personnel … And The Kind of Personnel Who Can Serve
May 12, 2010

We all know about the revolving door. And we know how comfy relations can become between brothers under the skin. It has been going on for decades. It’s one of the reasons for the BP catastrophe, perhaps the main reason. You may be surprised at how savagely a column in the Wall Street Journal makes this point. It’s an article on today’s “Opinion” page by Thomas Frank.

The Climate Bill's Delicate Offshore Drilling Compromise
May 12, 2010

As expected, the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill will give states incentives to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. (See Subtitle B here.) That's not too surprising. Kerry is still gunning for votes from conservatives like Louisiana's Mary Landrieu or South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, and expanded offshore drilling is one way of enticing them. But there are also a lot of adamant drilling skeptics out there, like Florida's Bill Nelson. So how did Kerry thread this particular needle? Here's how the bill would work.

Did Obama Ignore The Mess At MMS?
May 11, 2010

Yesterday, Paul Krugman wrote that "President Obama isn’t completely innocent of blame in the current [Gulf oil] spill." He pointed out that the president took too long to appoint a new director of the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling and had a dismal record under President Bush. Krugman also cited the decision by MMS to exempt the Deepwater Horizon drilling operation from a comprehensive environmental review just eleven days before the rig exploded. But Krugman missed a few things in his column.

More Oversight Failures In The Gulf
May 05, 2010

Yesterday, William Galston had an excellent piece on our site exploring the snuggly relationship that oil companies had with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is supposed to oversee offshore drilling, during the Bush years. The most glaring example: Back in 2003, government regulators decided that oil companies didn't have to install $500,000 remote-control shutoff switches at their rigs—the sorts of devices used in places like Norway in Brazil.

Forget Offshore Drilling Until We Get Some Answers
May 04, 2010

While it may take months to stop the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not too soon to begin asking some questions about why it happened and what can be done to minimize the chance that something like this will happen again.

Outsourced Drilling Isn't Pretty, Either
May 03, 2010

It's quite possible that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will put an end to further offshore drilling in the United States—at least for awhile. Florida Senator Bill Nelson is already calling for a stop to all new exploration and drilling in the Gulf; he's called any new energy bill that has support for new offshore drilling "dead on arrival." The Obama administration, meanwhile, is sounding a lot more circumspect about its earlier plans to expand drilling off the coasts.

Was Obama's Drilling Move Aimed At... Iran?
April 16, 2010

Many observers were puzzled last week when President Obama announced his support for expanded offshore oil drilling. Was he trying to win over Republican swing votes for a climate bill? Head off the inevitable anger over summer gas prices? Perhaps. But here's another possibility: The move could have been intended to bolster international support for sanctions on Iran.

No More Sex and Drugs in the Interior Department
September 18, 2009

On Wednesday, the Interior Department finally terminated a program few people had ever heard of: the royalty-in-kind (RIK) system, which allowed oil and gas companies to drill in public lands and pay the government in oil, rather than cash. Over the past decade, the program, run out of an office in suburban Denver, had allowed companies to underpay the government by $10 million.

Why Offshore Drilling Can Wait
April 08, 2009

Michael A. Livermore is the executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. He is the author, along with Richard L. Revesz, of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health. Last summer, when oil prices shot past $140 per barrel, offshore oil drilling became the biggest topic in politics for a short while. In the months leading up to the election, congressional Democrats went ahead and let the offshore-drilling moratoria expire—kicking the issue up to the administration.

Coal Mines, Casinos, and Cocaine
December 16, 2008

If the news reports are accurate, Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado has been tapped by Barack Obama to head up the Department of Interior. Let's hope he knows what he's getting into. After the last eight years, the Interior Department has become fairly dysfunctional, and this may end up being one of the most difficult jobs in the Obama administration—not to mention one that gets remarkably little attention.  Looking back historically, the Interior Department has been a mess from the very beginning.