Testimony of Christopher G. Mann on the Adequacy of MMS Regulations
Speaker: Christopher G. Mann
Senior Officer, Pew Environment Group
Venue: Before the committee on natural resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, U.S. House of Representatives
My name is Christopher Mann and I serve as a Senior Officer with the Pew Environment Group in Washington, D.C. I greatly appreciate your invitation to appear before the Committee to share our views on regulation of offshore oil and gas leasing and development. The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts. We are dedicated to advancing strong environmental policies that are informed and guided by sound science on climate change, wilderness protection and marine conservation. I manage a number of Pew's marine conservation initiatives, including our efforts to promote comprehensive, ecosystem-based management of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.
The explosion and sinking in late April of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig some 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana brought once more into sharp relief the costs, both human and environmental, of our society's dependence on fossil fuels. Emerging evidence of malfunctioning equipment and repeated failures to contain the spill show the risks inherent in offshore development. Revelations about environmental shortcuts and lax oversight by the Minerals Management Service (MMS)—the federal agency charged with ensuring that offshore development is conducted safely—are equally troubling. As this unprecedented environmental disaster unfolds, it has become clear that our government system to decide where, when and how to drill in the offshore environment is in need of substantial review and reform. We believe that the management of offshore oil and gas development is deeply flawed from the five-year planning process through production. If any good can come of the ongoing environmental tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, it is that Congress may assert its oversight responsibilities and enact significant reforms of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) development process.
The structural reforms proposed by the administration are an important first step in changing both the process and the culture of OCS development at the Department of the Interior (DOI). A more durable solution is for Congress to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to establish a new approach that fully and accurately assesses and manages the risks of offshore energy development. These amendments should espouse the goal of safely developing offshore energy resources while protecting the health of marine ecosystems and the coastal economies that depend on them.