How to Regulate the Gulf

By Bromwich, Michael | Newsweek, July 12, 2010 | Go to article overview

How to Regulate the Gulf


Bromwich, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Bromwich

My 30-year legal career--including experience as a prosecutor during the Iran-contra affair and inspector-general of the Justice Department--has been defined by law enforcement. So I was surprised when the White House and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked if I'd like to run the Minerals Management Service, the regulatory body in charge of offshore oil and gas drilling. I also wasn't sure I wanted the job, which would mean leaving a thriving private practice to head an agency under more investigations than any in memory. "I'm not there yet," I told Secretary Salazar after our first face-to-face meeting about the work. I was still undecided after the president reached me the following day, although his call had an enormous impact on my thinking.

As someone committed to public service, I really couldn't say no. On reflection, I also realized that I was well prepared to lead the troubled institution. During the past decade I monitored the D.C. police department's implementation of new policies on the use of force, investigated breakdowns in the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, and helped the state of Delaware shore up problems with its inmate health care. These experiences--each involving a serious, well-publicized breakdown of performance followed by a comprehensive reform of strategy--will guide me as I reform the MMS, which we recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (not the shortest or most euphonious name, I know, but one that better reflects the agency's core mission of ensuring safe and responsible energy production in federal waters).

I've learned that few embattled organizations are truly rotten from the top down; certainly BOEMRE is not. Its reputation has been severely damaged, sullied by reports of coziness with oil companies and by politicians who blame regulators for the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But the bureau contains honest and deeply committed public servants, many of whom have been working day and night to address the crisis offshore. …

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