New face, old body


The dissolution of the Minerals Management Service has led to a revival of two venerated bureaucratic traditions: infighting and hoarding of office supplies. While BP-owned oil continues gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the section of the Department of the Interior tasked with regulating offshore drilling and collecting royalties has been dissolved and divided into three new agencies. The largest of those has been reconstituted under a new name: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, responsible for conducting the initial environmental reviews and approving leases. Naturally, among the first orders of business was to decide on its acronym.

On June 21st, the agency’s new director, Michael Bromwich, formerly of the Justice Department, announced that the organization would be known as BOE. A few days later, he was contradicted by the acting associate director for administration & budget, James Anderson, in an email.

"Please be advised that BOE should not be used as the abbreviation for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. Until further notice the abbreviation BOEMRE should be used."

George Orwell is doing somersaults in his grave. I look forward to future dispatches on the pronunciation of said agency’s new name. Will it be Bee-Oh-Eee-Ehm-Arr-Ee? Or will it be spun into a new word entirely – Bohehmree? Or perhaps this acronym will go the way of Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) and simply be pronounced “bummer.” Once that all-important question is settled perhaps we can all get down to business on this messy issue of better regulating offshore resource extraction.

Incidentally, according to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the other two MMS spin-off agencies are called the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, tasked with collecting royalties, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which will conduct inspections once drilling leases have been granted. No word yet on their official acronyms. (ONRR…rhymes with stoner? BSEE…sounds like “B.S.y”?).

New, fun acronyms haven’t been the only bonuses to come out of this federal face-lift. Like all modern-day office workers worth their weight in staples, government employees are unlikely to let the carcass of a dead agency go to waste. There were MMS-emblazoned paperweights, flashlights, tote bags, lanyards and more, all just sitting there, like unlabeled pizza at lunchtime, waiting to be claimed. Now, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is auctioning off the office leftovers, donated by MMS employees.

Sadly, the whale plush doll has already been claimed, but the Department of Interior pocket ethics guide was, at last check, still up for sale; it could be useful for an aspiring freelance watchdog.

Photo courtesy of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Denver Nicks is a High Country News intern.