Murkowski Expresses Disappointment in BLM-OSM Merger Analysis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today responded to an analysis released by the Interior Department related to its plan to merge the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“While I appreciate Interior’s commitment to avoid violations of its statutory responsibilities, this analysis fails to quantify how the proposed merger will actually generate savings and efficiencies,” Murkowski said. “We asked for a clear summary of the costs and benefits associated with this plan and have received neither. Instead, the department appears to backtrack on decisions about merging certain functions and failed to include any estimates in support of the areas where it does claim savings are possible.”

Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), OSM was created as a distinct entity reporting directly to the Interior Secretary to protect its independence as a regulatory body. Last November, Interior announced its plan to merge the two bureaus without consulting Congress, which must approve amendments to the separate acts establishing BLM and OSM. 

“Interior needs to go back and actually calculate whether the consolidation of administrative functions is worth pursuing,” Murkowski said. “Doing that would spare us all a lot of time and confusion.”

Murkowski noted that the merger is inconsistent with the stated rationale for the now defunct Minerals Management Service (MMS) reorganization. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testified in 2010 about the need “to restructure MMS to establish an independent safety and environmental enforcement entity.”