American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


Testimony on MMS Organic Act (3-7-96)


Testimony of Robert R. Jordan before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources, Washington, D.C., March 7, 1996.

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am Robert R. Jordan, State Geologist of Delaware, Director of the Delaware Geological Survey, and Professor of Geology at the University of Delaware. I appreciate this opportunity to offer comments in support of H.R. 1813 and the objective of providing an organic act for the Minerals Management Service.

In addition to support based on my own experience, I will offer related statements from the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), the American Geological Institute (AGI), and the Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee (OCSPC). I am authorized by the President of AASG to present its resolution and to speak for the Association if clarification is required. I was a member of the task force of the AGI that prepared its position papers in support of an MMS organic act, and I am authorized to represent AGI. I am also a member, and past chairman, of the OCS Policy Committee of the Department of the Interior, where I represent the State of Delaware.

BACKGROUND

I base my analysis on 38 years of performing and managing geologic research, teaching the subject, and representing my State to federal agencies. I am a student of the offshore subject areas administered by MMS, from offshore oil and gas exploration and development to sand and gravel mining in federal waters. My State has been a constructively active participant in the development of public policy in these and related areas for many years. I have dealt with the Department of the Interior before there was an MMS, witnessed its birth and worked with it in science and policy since 1982.

The other organizations mentioned, the State Geologists, the geological umbrella of the American Geological Institute, and Interior's own OCS policy advisory committee, represent significant portions of the geology-driven, policy-oriented communities relating to MMS across the United States.

ENDORSEMENT

I recommend approval of H.R. 1813 as a means of providing a stable keel for an important agency, the Minerals Management Service.

Three fundamental reasons require the establishment of MMS with a statutory organic act. (1) The agency and its structure function effectively. (2) Stability is essential to large-scale, long-term activities. (3) The dispersal of MMS' responsibilities in other units, as they were prior to 1982, was inefficient, unresponsive, and frustrating.

MMS works. It is a professional organization with the capacity for scientific analysis and decisive management. From the state perspective, and, I believe, from that of other stakeholders, MMS has been responsible and responsive. Not all parties to some contentious subject areas can always agree, but we know who to approach to receive a fair hearing.

Exploration and development of resources from the Outer Continental Shelf requires many years for each project. Environmental Impact Statements, 5-Year Plans, and leasing procedures involve years of effort and commitment. Vast sums of money and major resources and risks are involved. Stability of structure and procedure are essential. Policies and personnel may change appropriately, but the framework should be preserved. MMS is a rarity in being subject to executive actions, even abolishment, without the anchor of law commensurate with its important responsibilities.

Veterans of Outer Continental Shelf activities will recall that prior to the establishment of MMS, activities now under its jurisdiction were dispersed under several bureaus and in various offices of Interior's secretariat. States, especially those of us new to the subject from the Atlantic Coast of the 1960s and 1970s, found the system was insular, complex, and unresponsive. Moving targets encouraged unnecessary contention. Congress itself responded with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments, Coastal Zone Management Act, and other advances that gave the States their "places at the table" and required responsible systems of management. The creation of MMS was another constructive response to an unsatisfactory administration of the nation's resources and environments. I strongly suggest the successful advance represented by MMS be codified to deter stepping backward into chaos.

CONCLUSION

As a scientist and administrator, a representative of my State, and participant in professional organizations, my experience leads to the conclusion that the stability of an organic act for the Minerals Management Service is highly desirable.

I am pleased that others agree as in documents appended to my statement. In May 1995, the Outer Continental Shelf Policy committee resolved that it "...strongly advises the Secretary of the Interior not to abolish the Minerals Management Service as proposed and to retain, intact the offshore Minerals Management Program..." A few days later position papers of the American Geological Institute, an umbrella for, now, 29 national geological organizations, noted, in part: "The national interest is best served by a reliable and stable program of management of the energy and mineral resources in the marine environments of the Outer Continental Shelf" and "Minerals Management Service was created to correct the problems of the past." In June of 1995 a resolution of the Association of American State Geologists concluded: "That the Association recommends the Congress of the United States establish the Minerals Management Service in statute through an organic act, thereby recognizing its importance and the need for stability in such a critical organization."

I commend your consideration of H.R. 1813 with the hope that it will indeed become law.

Thank you for this opportunity to address an important subject. I will welcome any questions.


Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program govt@agiweb.org

Last updated March 11, 1996

American Geological Institute Home Page