Obama Names Ex-Justice Official Bromwich to Revamp Offshore-Oil Regulator

President Barack Obama named former Justice Department official Michael Bromwich to revamp federal management of offshore oil and gas exploration as part of an effort to clean up an agency the president says was plagued by corruption.

Bromwich, 56, who served as inspector general of the Justice Department during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, will lead an effort to overhaul the Minerals Management Service, focusing on the relationship between the agency and the oil companies it oversees, according to an announcement released by the White House.

The former director of the agency, Elizabeth Birnbaum, became the first administration official to step down in connection with the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst such disaster in U.S. history.

According to the latest estimates, BP’s Macondo oil well is leaking 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, according to the flow- rate technical group on the Deepwater Horizon Response website.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in a May 19 order, split the Minerals and Management Service into three divisions. The new units are the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

In a May 27 White House news conference, the president criticized the MMS for having a “cozy” relationship with the industry it regulates and being “plagued by corruption.”

‘Scandalously Close Relationship’

“For years, there has been a scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them,” he said. “That’s why we’ve decided to separate the people who permit the drilling from those who regulate and ensure the safety of the drilling.”

Obama returned from a two-day visit to the region hit by the BP Plc oil spill this afternoon and is set to deliver a televised address to the nation at 8 p.m. Washington time tonight.

The president will use tonight’s address, his first from the Oval Office, to outline what’s been done so far to stop the leak and clean up the oil, what needs to be done to mitigate the economic impact and what regulations are needed to make sure another such incident won’t happen again, according to Bill Burton, an administration spokesman.

Paying for Damage

“I am with you, my administration is with you for the long haul, to make sure BP pays for the damage it has done and to make sure you are getting the help that you need,” Obama said this morning in remarks at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, where he thanked service personnel for their work on the response.

Earlier in the day, he was briefed by Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen on the clean-up efforts as he is pushing BP to boost work on containing the oil and to set up a multibillion-dollar escrow account to pay for damage caused by the spill.

Bromwich served as the Justice Department’s inspector general from 1994 to 1999. He is a lawyer in private practice at the firm Fried Frank where he conducted investigations at private corporations and represented institutions and individuals in white-collar criminal cases.

He received his law degree from the Harvard Law School in 1980.

Police Monitor

From 2002 to 2008, Bromwich served as the independent monitor for the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department, investigating civil rights and matters of internal misconduct.

In 2007, he ran an investigation into the Houston Police Department crime lab.

When he served as Justice Department inspector general, he conducted investigations of misconduct at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Before his appointment as inspector general, he was a federal prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

He is known for taking “broken agencies, applying rigorous reforms and oversight and seeing positive results,” according to the White House statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

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