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Salazar Reviewing Interior Restructuring Plan

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has received an internal plan written by senior Interior Department officials on restructuring the “energy management responsibilities” of the department, a plan Salazar commissioned when he announced he’d be splitting the embattled Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three separate bureaus.

The three entities, once established, will replace the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which Salazar created last month to supersede MMS while a thorough review of the agency was being conducted.

The plan, which was authored by Salazar’s senior advisers, calls for a “careful and deliberate” process that defines the role of the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which are responsible, respectively, for permitting both renewable and traditional offshore projects and for enforcing safety standards.

The salient paragraph in today’s Interior Department press release on the plan:

The plan calls for six months of employee engagement and communication, detailed analysis, and planning to accomplish this, with a phased implementation beginning in January 2011 and continuing for about twelve months.”

This bit of information is sure to frustrate many in the oil industry, who are likely to interpret this “phased implementation” as a de facto moratorium on new deepwater drilling.

The press release notes that the transition to the new bureaus could begin “as early as October 1 and be completed in 2011.” Salazar has also sent the plan to Congress to get feedback from relevant lawmakers.

News of Salazar receiving the plan comes on the same day that a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for Salazar to create a new bureau to focus on offshore wind energy.

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