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Senators are set to take a last run at producing a climate and energy law tomorrow, betting on the spectre of environmental disaster raised by the BP oil spill to build support for a comprehensive overhaul of America's energy strategy.
But despite a strong push from the Obama administration, there are concerns the debate about the energy future could be lost in the wrangling about offshore oil drilling permits.
The troubled federal agency that oversees all aspects of offshore leasing will split in two in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion, an Interior official confirmed Tuesday.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to announce this afternoon that the Minerals Management Service will divide its regulatory and revenue collection functions.
The split addresses one of the main criticisms of the agency in the days following an oil explosion that killed 11 and continues to spew oil from the sea floor into the Gulf of Mexico: that the agency is too cozy with the industry it regulates. Splitting its functions will address that conflict — currently MMS is responsible for regulating offshore drilling, but also for leasing tracts on the outer continental shelf and collecting royalties on the oil and gas they produce.