House GOP tries to roll back expanded oversight of offshore drilling

The ProPublica Blog
Lawmakers Attempt to Roll Back Expanded Oversight of Offshore Drilling
by Marian Wang
ProPublica, July 13, 2011, 11:50 a.m.

After millions of gallons of crude gushed into the Gulf during last year’s oil spill, the disaster triggered a continuing blame game between BP and its many contractors. It also got regulators pondering the need for expanding oversight to such contractors. Currently, operators of off-shore rigs are subject to safety regulations, but regulators don’t have direct oversight of the contractors that work for those operators.

In recent months, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management signaled that this could change. As we reported in April, the agency’s head, Michael Bromwich, said that the limited oversight of contractors made “absolutely no sense.” He suggested that the agency could move to bring major offshore oil contractors—like Transocean and Halliburton—under the agency’s enforcement reach and impose penalties if warranted.

But the Republican-led House Appropriations committee is having nothing of it. The committee passed a bill today that—in addition to stripping billions in funding from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency—seeks to limit the offshore drilling agency’s ability to oversee contractors.

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