The first panel of witnesses were effusive in their answers as the majority of questions targeted Minerals Management Service representative Elmer Danenberger. Although Danenberger retired in January after 38 years at MMS, he faced strong questions from senators asking why MMS seemed so inept on the permit that resulted in the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Was it appropriate that MMS is both advocate and regulator of the oil and gas industry? Danenberger replied: "That concept might merit further attention."
Many senators seemed unhappy with the responses from the first panel, and made their disdain known. Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID) took the opportunity to toss a jibe at those organizing the first Earth Day, blaming them for stopping development of nuclear power and thus increasing our reliance on fossil fuels, but he did note that he was "less than satisfied" with the answers he recieved.
On a separate note, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar will announce today plans to split MMS into two parts, as reported by the Washington Post: one with oversight responsibilities for the oil indsutry and another that would provide drilling leases and collect federal royalties on the operations. The move could address what some senators questioned as MMS’ relationship as both advocate and regulator.