Gerald Herbert / AP

Michael Bromwich, who led the overhaul of federal offshore drilling oversight after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, is speaking publicly for the first time about the Trump administration's potential reversal of a key regulatory change.

  • "I am frankly baffled by what the rationale would be for doing it, and what the analysis is that supports it," Bromwich tells Axios.
  • "[T]he risks have been significantly lowered over the last six years. Why you would want to tinker with something that has been successful is not something that I can readily understand."
  • Trump's Interior Department is weighing the idea of re-combining offshore leasing and drilling safety branches that were separated after the fatal 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout and spill.

Why it matters: Bromwich said the post-spill overhaul is among the factors that has increased the safety of offshore development in the years since the disaster.

In 2010 Bromwich led the yearlong breakup of the Interior's troubled Minerals Management Service into three separate branches to end what Obama officials and others called conflicts inherent in having a single agency promote offshore development, collect revenues, and oversee safety.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is believed to be weighing the re-combination of two of the successor agencies: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

  • Here's Zinke told Axios in a short interview in late June: "We are looking at that. We are walking through a process to make sure there are no unintended consequences. . . . They were together, we had an oil spill, there is many that say it was an overreaction, and over a period of time BSEE and BOEM are not working as well jointly as they should."
  • Interior did not provide details on the status of the plan on Thursday. "Secretary Zinke is reviewing ways to make the Department of the Interior as efficient and effective as possible to best serve the American people. No decisions have been announced yet," said Russell Newell, an Interior spokesman.

Bromwich said that Interior should be public about the thinking and analysis behind the potential reversal, a process he argues should include testimony before Congress.

  • "If they are serious about it, let's hear what the reasons are, what the rationale is, what the arguments are, whether they have lined up what the costs and benefits will be," he said.
  • Bromwich noted that he discussed the overhaul in hearings before Congress and the independent commission that investigated the spill, as well as speeches before industry groups, think tanks and other audiences.
  • "All that was done in a very careful and deliberate way," he said.

Bromwich is an attorney, former federal prosecutor and former Justice Department official who specializes in monitoring and reform of organizations and companies. He said Interior has not contacted him about the idea of merging BOEM and BSEE. "I am happy to share my experiences with them. I think they know where to find me," he said.

Go deeper

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Voters in Wisconsin, Michigan urged to return absentee ballots to drop boxes

Signs for Joe Biden are seen outside a home in Coon Valle, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3. Photo by KEREM YUCEL via Getty

Wisconsin Democrats and the Democratic attorney general of Michigan are urging voters to return absentee ballots to election clerks’ offices or drop boxes, warning that the USPS may not be able to deliver ballots by the Election Day deadline.

Driving the news: The Supreme Court rejected an effort by Wisconsin Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. In Michigan, absentee ballots must also be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

49 mins ago - Technology

Facebook warns of "perception hacks" undermining trust in democracy

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Facebook warned Tuesday that bad actors are increasingly taking to social media to create the false perception that they’ve pulled off major hacks of electoral systems or have otherwise seriously disrupted elections.

Why it matters: "Perception hacking," as Facebook calls it, can have dire consequences on people's faith in democracy, sowing distrust, division and confusion among the voters it targets.

Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage"

Former President Barack Obama launched a blistering attack on President Trump while campaigning for Joe Biden in Orlando on Tuesday, criticizing Trump for complaining about the pandemic as cases soar and joking that he's "jealous of COVID's media coverage."

Driving the news: Trump has baselessly accused the news media of only focusing on covering the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed over 226,000 Americans so far and is surging across the country once again — as a way to deter people from voting on Election Day and distract from other issues.