By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration wants to double the fees the government charges oil and gas companies to inspect their offshore operations.
The White House Monday asked Congress to approve the fee hikes as part of a request for $80 million in new spending for the agency that oversees offshore drilling. The increase can be paid for in part by boosting inspection fees and hiring new inspectors, officials said. The proposal would more double the amount collected from oil and gas companies, to $45 million next year from about $20 million this year.
Obama said in a letter to Congress that the fee hikes and other changes are needed to strengthen oversight of offshore oil and gas operations; address deficiencies in mineral revenue collection; and complete the reorganization of the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.
The White House also wants to find better ways to respond to catastrophic oil spills such as the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which led to the worst offshore oil spill in the nation’s history.
Congress recently approved $29 million in emergency spending to hire hundreds of new offshore drilling inspectors and take others steps to improve the beleaguered drilling agency, which has long been plagued by staffing shortages and an overly cozy relationship with the industries it oversees.
The agency was reorganized and renamed following the BP spill and now is known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
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