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Trump Considers Reuniting Conflicting Regulatory Bodies Separated After 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

After the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the Minerals Management Service was split in two.

A boat collects oil that has leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 28, 2010. (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

The Trump administration confirmed that it is considering the integration of two energy regulators that were split after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe due to inherent conflicts of interest.

Katharine MacGregor, a high-ranking official at the Department of the Interior, acknowledged the “internal” deliberations on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Interior was discussing re-merging the two offices — the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

MacGregor, the ‎Acting Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management, was asked about the report by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing.

Beyer had noted that the BSEE-BOEM split was recommended by a commission ordered by President Obama after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, off the coast of Louisiana.

“The agency that existed at the time was the Minerals Management Service (MMS),” Beyer said. “And when that agency wasn’t mired in scandal, it was dealing with a sharply-conflicting mission: both promoting and regulating offshore drilling.”

“As we look at reorganization broadly within the department, the discussion on splitting BOEM and BSEE, and whether or not they should be recombined, is still ongoing and internal,” MacGregor said. “But I hear your comments and am more than happy to take those back with me today.”

Beyer had also asked MacGregor about “the evidence you have that combining BOEM and the BSEE would be in the public’s interest.”

“We want to make sure that the bureaus that both lease and conduct inspections are doing their jobs and doing them well,” MacGregor replied.

President Trump, however, has prioritized leasing. In an April 28 executive order, he ordered Interior to “review BSEE’s regulatory regime for offshore operators to determine the extent to which additional regulation is necessary.”

The directive was part of an order that called on the US “to encourage energy exploration and production.”

“America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first,” the order stated.

As Beyer noted, the Obama commission on the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe had harsh words for the regulatory body that existed before it was split into BSEE and BOEM.

“From birth, MMS had a built-in incentive to promote offshore drilling in sharp tension with its mandate to ensure safe drilling and environmental protection,” the January 2011 report stated.