Regulatory Reforms

Oil Spill Commission Co-chairs

In response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama Administration launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history. The reforms, which strengthen requirements for everything from well design and workplace safety to corporate accountability, are helping ensure that the United States can safely and responsibly expand development of its energy resources.

On May 21, 2010, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13543 to create the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore DrillingThis link will direct you to a non-government website that may have different privacy policies from those of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. as a bipartisan group tasked with delivering recommendations on how oil spills can be prevented and how impacts of future spills can be mitigated. A final report from the commission was released in January 2011.

As the commission began their work, Michael R. Bromwich was selected to lead the Bureau in June 2010 by President Obama and Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar.  They issued a mandate: to reform the government’s regulation of offshore energy development and the agency responsible for it. Under the leadership of Secretary Salazar and Director Bromwich, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau made fundamental changes necessary to restore the American people’s confidence in the safety and environmental protection of oil and gas drilling and production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, ensuring that responsible oil and gas development continues.

A comprehensive reorganization was set in motion and internal reforms were designed to remove the complex and sometimes conflicting missions of the former Minerals Management Service (MMS).  In the place of the former MMS, an interim agency was formed, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). After an 18-month reorganization, three strong, independent agencies were launched on October 1, 2011 with clearly defined roles and missions:  the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR).

An outgrowth of the former National Oil Spill Commission, Oil Spill Commission ActionThis link will direct you to a non-government website that may have different privacy policies from those of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management., was eventually formed to provide periodic assessments and updates about the progress of the Deepwater Horizon reform and recovery efforts.  Some of the changes made since 2010 are:

  • An Investigations and Review Unit was instituted to root out problems within the regulatory agencies and target companies that aim to game the system.
  • BOEM created multiple Implementation Teams, tasked with analyzing various aspects of Bureau’s regulatory structure and helping to implement the reform agenda. 
  • The Bureau implemented a recusal policy for employees to deal with real and perceived conflicts of interest.
  • Secretary Salazar and Director Bromwich launched a full review of the use of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), categorical exclusions, during which they are not being used to approve proposed deepwater drilling projects.
  • BOEM has placed a renewed emphasis on public input and scientific analysis which are critical to safe exploration and development of offshore resources. Public comment is solicited in our environmental review programs for both oil and gas and renewable energy proposals.  Plans submitted by industry are subject to rigorous scientific review to ensure that environmental safeguards are the foundation of all offshore energy development.
  • Find a brief summary of reforms within BOEM and BSEE since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy at this link.  BOEM, along with our colleagues in BSEE, will continue to be diligent in implementing the reform measures taken since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.  BOEM will also work with our federal, state and academic partners to monitor and study impacts of the oil spill on the waters and ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico.