Offshore Drilling Head Admits Agency Got Regulations From Industry

The director of the government’s newly reorganized offshore drilling agency conceded yesterday that the agency has relied too heavily on the oil and gas industry when creating regulations.

“I think there is the perception and the reality that we have been heavily reliant on the domestic oil and gas industry in setting standards,” Michael Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Thursday, the WSJ reports. “We’re going to be exploring borrowing from alternative models.”Using the industry to write the standards creates a far-reaching ripple effect. As TPMmuckraker has reported, the environmental agencies charged with protecting wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere relied on BOEM’s predecessor, the Minerals Management Service, when estimating how a new rig could affect endangered species.

And the MMS got its statistics and estimates and models, for the most part, directly from the industry. Government regulators said yesterday that the industry has more sophisticated technology for, say, predicting how equipment would react to a burst of gas.

“To be candid with you completely, they’re more advanced–the computer programs used by industry–than we’re currently using in our bureaus,” said one regulator.

Bromwich and others were speaking to a meeting of the National Academy of Engineering, which is investigating the causes of the Deepwater Horizon spill at the request of the Interior Department, which oversees BOEM. The academy will issue a peer-reviewed report later this year.