Skip to main content

Federal official overseeing offshore oil development to retire early

By the CNN Wire Staff
Chris Oynes will step down as associate director of the Offshore Minerals Management Program, an official says.
Chris Oynes will step down as associate director of the Offshore Minerals Management Program, an official says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Oynes is the associate director of the Offshore Minerals Management Program
  • The program is part of the Minerals Management Service
  • Official: "This was Chris Oynes' decision to retire after almost 35 years of public service"
RELATED TOPICS

Washington (CNN) -- The head of offshore drilling at an Interior Department agency criticized after the Gulf Coast oil spill is retiring a month earlier than planned, an administration official told CNN on Monday.

Chris Oynes will step down as associate director of the agency's Offshore Minerals Management Program at the end of May, the official said. The program is part of the Minerals Management Service.

"This was Chris Oynes' decision to retire after almost 35 years of public service," the official said. "Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, he approached leadership at MMS and announced he would be retiring on June 30, and today [Monday,] he told his colleagues that he would be accelerating his retirement."

Oynes was named to the post in 2007. His responsibilities include overseeing the Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas program and working on a new alternative energy program.

In the past, critics have accused MMS of being too cozy with the industries it regulates. A 2008 report from the Interior Department's inspector-general found MMS employees received improper gifts from energy industry representatives and engaged in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations with them.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week announced he would split MMS into separate divisions -- one for regulating offshore oil drilling and the other for collecting royalties from oil companies. Salazar said that having both responsibilities in one agency created a culture of possible corruption.

Oynes previously was the regional director of the MMS' Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Region in New Orleans, Louisiana, for 12 years.

"His involvement with the MMS has covered a wide range of issues," according to the agency's website. "He has been actively involved in how MMS conducts its resource projections and its environmental reviews, and the operational safeguards it imposes. During his tenure in the GOM, he conducted 30 lease sales and oversaw a 50 percent rise in oil production."

Oynes has a law degree from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from California State University at Fullerton.

Oil disaster: Tracking the numbers
Part of complete coverage on
Impact Your World: How to help
A number of organizations are recruiting volunteers to help clean up coastal areas
Depths of the disaster
Get the numbers, see the images and learn how the worst U.S. oil spill has changed lives, ruined economies and more.
iReport: Gulf journals
These stories help us look into the lives of the hardworking people of the Gulf as they watch this disaster take its toll.
Send your photos, videos
Is your area being affected by the spill? Help CNN track the oil slick and its effects on Gulf Coast communities and wildlife
Map: What's been hit
Interactive map locates oil sightings and stories
Daily developments
How big is the slick? What's being affected? What's being done?
Timeline
Track the major developments of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
Berms, booms, blowouts: Glossary
Breaking down the jargon of the disaster