The federal government reforms laws and regulations, as needed. They do this by creating new legislation and new implementation rules for the legislation.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommend reforms. Congress uses these recommendations to institute reforms via legislation.
Office of Inspector General (OIG)
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) oversees and promotes of excellence, integrity, and accountability within the Department of the Interior. OIG also identifies and prevents fraud, waste, and mismanagement within the agency.
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
The Goveernment Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer funds. These funds include those for natural resource management on federal and Indian lands.
Congress can pass legislation to direct agencies to propose rules. This allows Congress to use the agency’s expertise to fill in technical details.
Per the Administrative Procedures Act, agencies propose rules to implement federal laws. The public can comment on all proposed rules before an agency finalizes them.
For more details, search the Federal Registrar for Department of the Interior proposed rules.
Reform in action
The federal government has passed many laws that govern natural resource extraction on federal lands. These rules affect extraction, financial practices, and more.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill reforms
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the federal government reorganized the Department of the Interior. They wanted to improve oversight for offshore oil and gas extraction. They changed rules for leasing, regulation, and collection of revenue for offshore oil and gas.
The post-Deepwater Horizon reorganization separated and established independent oversight for offshore leasing. In May and June 2010, they eliminated the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and created two new bureaus and one new office.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Managment (BOEM) manages development of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) ensures safety oversight of ocean energy development and production. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) collects and accounts for revenue generated from natural resource development on federal and Indian lands.
The Secretary of the Interior's goals in eliminating MMS were to:
- Separate the three responsibilities of leasing, regulation, and revenue collection
- Provide each office and bureau with the independence and resources necessary to fulfill their missions
- Eliminate real and perceived conflicts associated with the previous organizations
While the federal government made regulatory reforms following the spill, Congress did not change any laws related to offshore fossil fuel management in response to the accident.
Regulation following the spill
In May of 2018, BSEE submitted a proposed rule revising regulations for well control and blowout preventer systems put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In May of 2019, BSEE issued the final rule.
The Dodd-Frank Act
In 2010, the U.S. enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PDF) (124 Stat. 1376) to improve transparency and accountability across the financial system. It requires extractive industries companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to disclose information about payments to governments around the world.
Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act
Section 1504 requires companies to disclose the type and total amount of payments made for commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. It mandates the disclosure of taxes, royalties, fees, entitlements, bonuses, and other material benefits.
Section 1504 references the guidelines of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The United States participated in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as an implementing country from 2014 to 2017. In November 2017, the U.S. withdrew as an implementing country from EITI.
Section 1504 resolution
In early 2017, Congress voted to disapprove an SEC rule implementing Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The President signed the resolution on February 14, 2017. This resolution prevents the SEC from enforcing Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank until a new rule is published.
Additional laws, regulations, and penalties
For a comprehensive list of regulations governing the Department of the Interior, explore the federal laws page.