American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Update on Minerals Management Service Legislation (12-5-96)

In March of last year, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt announced a plan to eliminate the Minerals Management Service (MMS) as part of the Vice President's National Performance Review (or "reinventing government") effort. Its responsibilities, inc luding royalty collection, would devolve to the states, Indian tribes, and other federal agencies within two years. This proposal received considerable opposition from the industry, many of the states, Congress, and the geoscience community. MMS lacks s tatutory authority from Congress (an Organic Act), because it was created by order of Secretary of the Interior James Watt in 1982 without Congressional approval. In response to the Administration's announcement, MMS proponents in Congress introduced leg islation to give MMS statutory authority, making it more difficult for the Administration to eliminate. In the House, Rep. Don Young (R-AK and Chairman of the House Committee on Resources) introduced H.R.1813, and in the Senate, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-A K and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources) introduced S. 921.

In August, the Department of the Interior announced its intention to maintain its pursuit of reinvention and streamlining but within the existing MMS structure. With the retraction of the devolution proposal, the impetus driving legislation to provide Co ngressional authorization subsided somewhat, and H.R. 1813 and S. 921 did not progress. According to Mike Poling, natural resources counsel for Murkowski's committee, Congressional interest in elevating the status of the agency persists, and the legislat ion will be considered this year.

In the House, a legislative hearing was held by the House Committee on Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, chaired by bill co-sponsor Ken Calvert (R-CA). The hearing was held March 7 and suggested strong support for the MMS's off-shor e functions but conflict over its appropriate role in federal royalty collection on federal and tribal lands. A hearing report is available on this site.

Although the 104th Congress closed without action on an MMS "Organic Act," industry and the Independent Petroleum Association of America maintain a strong interest in elevating the agency's status, and the issue is likely to resurface in the 105th Congres s.

(Contributed by John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs)

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Last updated December 5, 1996

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