U.S. committee approves split of MMS

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- New legislation that passed through a U.S. natural resources committee makes exploration of federal lands and waters more transparent, lawmakers said.

Democratic lawmakers are pushing ahead with a bill that would reform federal agencies tasked with monitoring exploration of natural resources on federal lands and on the Outer Continental Shelf.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., in praising the passage of the legislation through his committee, however, said the issue goes beyond the incident in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The problems we have identified and addressed in this legislation are not merely the result of one incident, but rather are the product of more than a decade of investigations, hearings, and prior legislative efforts into the pressing need to improve the management of America's public energy resources," he said.

His measure would permanently dismantle the "scandal-ridden" Minerals Management Service and divide it into three separate entities, the chairman stressed.

The U.S. Interior Department inspector general issued a May report concluding that MMS inspectors accepted hunting and fishing trips, tickets to football games and meals from companies operating offshore oil rigs.

Rahall introduced the bill first in 2009. The updated version includes language that ensures oil and gas development in the United States is both efficient and safe, Rahall said.

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