New leadership announced at offshore drilling bureaus

The government today paved the way for the final breakup of the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling by unveiling the lineup of top lieutenants that will head the two new bureaus responsible for energy development along the nation’s coastlines.

Many come from within the ranks of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the agency that was created after last year’s oil spill that replaced the former Minerals Management Service. BOEMRE is set on Oct. 1 to split into two new agencies: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

“The new leadership represents a combination of talented people from inside the agency with an exceptionally well-qualified group of people recruited from outside the agency,” aid BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich.

While BOEM will be responsible for administering offshore leasing, reviewing exploration plans and doing environmental reviews, BSEE will focus on enforcing safety and environmental regulations. For instance, BSEE will handle the permitting of individual offshore wells, take the lead in oil spill response and will oversee offshore regulatory programs.

The top heads of BOEM and BSEE — who would be appointed by the Obama administration — have not yet been announced. The lineup of top staff announced by BOEMRE today includes career professionals who are not tied to a single presidency or administration.

BOEM’s deputy director will be Walter Cruickshank, who has spent more than a quarter century at the Interior Department, most recently as BOEMRE’s deputy director. Other top career staff in BOEM include:

  • Renee Orr, BOEM strategic resources chief. Orr has been deeply involved in the reorganization of BOEMRE and previously headed offshore leasing programs.
  • Maureen Bornholdt, BOEM renewable chief. A 27-year Interior Department veteran, Bornholdt most recently served as the project manager for BOEMRE’s Offshore Renewable Energy Program.
  • Ellen Aronson, BOEM Pacific Region director. Aronson has spent more than 33 years with the Interior Department, most recently as BOEMRE’s Pacific Region director.
  • James Kendall, BOEM Alaska Region director. Kendall has more than 27 years of experience with the Interior Department, most recently as BOEMRE’s Alaska Region director.  He also has Texas roots, having earned a doctorate in oceanography from Texas A&M University.
  • John Rodi, BOEM Gulf of Mexico acting regional director. Rodi has been the deputy regional director of BOEMRE’s Gulf of Mexico Region since November 2007. He will serve as acting regional director until a permanent one is selected.

BSEE’s top posts include:

  • Charles Barbee, chief of BSEE’s environmental enforcement division. Barbee has more than two decades of experience with the U.S. Coast Guard, most recently as program manager for marine investigations and environmental crime. He also has specialized in oil spill contingency planning, marine casualty inspections and pollution investigation.
  • Chris Barry, director of the National Offshore Training Center at BSEE. Barry currently serves ad chief of national training and leadership for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • David Moore,  BSEE oil spill response supervisor. Moore has spent more than 14 years with the Interior Department, most recently as coordinator of BOEMRE’s oil spill program.
  • Bob Brown,  BSEE associate director for administration. Brown’s background includes three decades working at the Interior Department, Small Business Administration and U.S. Navy. Most recently, he has been BOEMRE’s associate director for administration and budget, as well as the agency’s chief information officer.
  • Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico Region director. Herbst has spent more than 27 years with the Interior Department, most recently heading BOEMRE’s Gulf of Mexico region. A registered professional engineer who holds a degree in petroleum engineering, Herbst is well known to offshore operators on the Gulf Coast.
  • Jaron Ming, BSEE Pacific Region director. Most recently, Ming has served as the lead leasing specialist for the Pacific Region.
  • Mark Fesmire, BSEE Alaska Region director. An outside recruit, Fesmire most recently served in top spots at the New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, including as director of the state oil and gas regulatory agency and chairman of the Oil and Gas Commission. Fesmire previously spent 12 years as a petroleum engineer before completing law school at Texas Tech.