Search Penny Hill Press

Monday, July 16, 2012

Department of the Interior (DOI) Reorganization of Ocean Energy Programs

Curry L. Hagerty
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

On June 28, 2012, the Department of the Interior (DOI) submitted to Congress the Proposed Final Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program for 2012-2017, a forward-looking schedule for ocean energy development mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. 1331). This DOI submission to Congress marks the first substantive demonstration of the department’s new institutional structure since the Obama Administration overhauled the regulatory framework for managing ocean energy resources in 2010.

DOI institutional reforms, among other responses to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010, were aimed at correcting perceived shortcomings within DOI by strengthening federal regulatory policies toward drilling safety and environmental protection. The reforms within DOI took effect on October 1, 2012, creating three DOI agencies:

(1) Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR, pronounced “Honor”), tasked with managing revenue owed to the government for the use of the public domain for energy and mineral development.

(2) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM, rhymes with “Rome”), tasked with offshore leasing administration and environmental and economic analysis.

(3) Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE, pronounced “Bessy”), tasked with oversight and enforcement for field operations, inspections, workforce safety, and decommissioning.

Because ONRR, BOEM, and BSEE were not created by statute, statutory changes were not needed as part of the DOI reorganization. Legislative action during the first session of the 112th Congress included House and Senate hearings, first to oversee DOI permitting for offshore drilling operations and then to examine proposed legislation aimed at codifying agency reorganization (H.R. 3404, S. 917). H.R. 3404 was ordered to be reported by the House Committee Natural Resources on November 17, 2011. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held hearings on S. 917 (S.Hrg. 112–51). No further legislative action on these bills has been scheduled.

Stakeholders (energy companies, developers, and state officials engaged in coastal and marine development) expressed uncertainty prior to the 2010 reorganization about whether, during the transition to the new system, DOI permitting for offshore operations would stay on track or be disrupted. Major disruptions stemming from the reorganization have not materialized, but some uncertainty about the workings of the new agencies remains a concern for some stakeholders in the aftermath of the reorganization. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has undertaken a study to measure DOI performance since the 2010 reorganization and is expected to provide a report to Congress in 2013.

Date of Report: July 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R42599
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.

To Order:

R42599.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports