Bromwich plans to continue frequent meetings with industry

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 29 -- US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael R. Bromwich plans to continue meeting frequently with members of the oil and gas industry because he considers it a key component of his job, he told OGJ on Oct. 29. The meetings so far have been “very respectful and cordial,” he said in a telephone interview after addressing the National Ocean Industries Association’s fall meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Moving forward, it is imperative that industry and government work together, along with our colleagues in the academic world as well as other stakeholders, to ensure that safety, containment, and response mechanisms catch up with advances in drilling technologies,” he told the group. “The road ahead is challenging, but I am confident that together, we can and will make offshore drilling safer.”

Bromwich told OGJ that he repeatedly has asked for views from members of the oil and gas industry in the 4 months he has led what used to be the US Minerals Management Service. “Although I read about sniping at us from some of the industry’s fringes, I find that all of the meetings I have with industry representatives are cordial and constructive,” he said.

He said NOIA members asked whether BOEMRE would issue new deepwater permits before yearend, to which he said he certainly hoped it could. He also said when someone asked why the US Department of the Interior agency needed to be reorganized and reformed following decades without serious problems on the US Outer Continental Shelf, he responded that a single major accident—the Apr. 20 Macondo well blowout, rig explosion, and crude oil spill—provided strong impetus.

Bromwich added that as conflicts of interest in MMS’s structure became increasingly apparent before the accident, US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar recognized that it would be necessary to separate revenue collections from leasing and permitting activities. “The revenue collection arm of the former MMS has already become the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. In the next year, the offshore leasing and regulation programs will also become separate, independent organizations,” he told NOIA members.

Recusal policy
“We have also issued a tough new recusal policy that will reduce the potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest,” he continued. “Employees must notify their supervisor about any potential conflict of interest and request to be recused from performing any official duty in which such a conflict exists. Thus, our inspectors will be required to recuse themselves from performing inspections of the facilities of former employers. Also, going forward, every BOEMRE employee must report any attempt to influence, pressure or interfere with his or her official duties.”

Bromwich told the group that he completed a 4-day tour the previous day of Gulf Coast universities with strong petroleum engineering programs, where he received more than 50 job applications. “We are also reaching out to retired engineers with an interest in serving their country,” he said. “My hope is that we can add as many as 200 new inspectors, engineers, environmental scientists, and other key staff to support our agency in carrying out its important oversight functions.”

He told OGJ that new BOEMRE inspectors will need broader credentials than were required in the past. “I suspect most of the applications we received were for engineers’ positions, but it will be possible for some people we hire to start as inspectors and work into engineering positions,” he said.

Asked how the bureau will reconcile the need for technical expertise in an era of increased regulation with its concern for cronyism, Bromwich conceded that “there’s going to be tension there. I think we have to continue recruiting from industry, but I also want to build a cadre of public servants from the best petroleum engineering schools with careers at our agency.

“In addition to the careers program I hope to build, we also need and want to get create in ways to exchange resources with the industry without detracting from our enforcement ability,” he continued. “The old days are gone and we’re going to keep the industry at arm’s length, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop trying to use the substantial and growing body of knowledge it offers to do a better job producing our country’s offshore resources.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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