The Minerals Management Service is a United States bureau that is part of the US Interior Department. The origins of control over the management of oil, gas and other minerals exploration began in the late 1800s with the boom in oil extraction in Summerland, California and in coastal Texas, where the discovery that more oil and profit could be found, first close to the shore, then out to sea. This caused some alarm as over the ensuing decades, America became overwhelmingly dependent upon oil as the primary source of energy.
The Federal government took action in the 1953 Outer Continental Submerged Lands Act (OCSLA) in order to gain ownership of all submerged lands to a distance of three miles from the coast of a coastal state. This act gave the Secretary of the Interior the power to lease such submerged lands for minerals extraction.
After the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, several acts were passed to introduce oil spill regulation, to fund oil spill research, to require environmental review before any controversial federal action, to review any actions involving coastal zone management and which included the clean air act.
The Federal Oil and Gas Royalty management act created the Minerals Management Service to be responsible for the “mineral leasing of submerged OCS lands and for the supervision of offshore operations after lease issuance.” 1
MMS is in charge of collecting and accounting for revenues from minerals on Federal American Indian, offshore and other lands.
Amendments to the OCSLA include setting up an oil spill liability fund and sharing a portion of the receipts from mineral leases to coastal states.
Some of the revenues are directed to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other special use funds, with disbursements of over $176 billion since 1982.
In spite of having a code of ethics, the MMS deteriorated into a controversial mess during the Bush Administration that extended well into the current Obama administration. One of President Obama’s early actions was to appoint Ken Salazar and Interior Secretary with instructions to clean up the agency, which had a well known, highly publicized and congressionally investigated reputation for corruption and inappropriately close relationships with the regulated entities.
Government auditors and investigatory agencies had, for a time, reported inappropriate gift taking, drug use interpersonal relationships and other improprieties of alarming proportions in a regulatory agency.
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, the head of MMS was fired in May of 2010. The MMS is expected to be disbanded and broken up into three parts that will reincorporate into the Interior Department.
1. MMS and OCSLA History
John M. Broder and Michael Luo, “Reforms Slow To Arrive At Drilling Agency”, The New York Times, 30 May 2010