A veteran Interior Department official has taken the helm of the bureau that oversees development of oil and gas, renewable energy, and
sand and gravel on roughly 1.7 billion acres of federal waters.
Walter Cruickshank earlier this month was named acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. He replaced departing chief Tommy Beaudreau, who on May 5 became Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s chief of staff.
Cruickshank, who is BOEM’s deputy director and has previously served short stints as acting director of BOEM’s predecessor, the Minerals
Management Service, takes the reins as BOEM develops major long-term plans for oil and gas surveying and exploration in the Atlantic and
Arctic oceans and charts a course for the future construction of offshore wind farms.
A mineral economist by training, Cruickshank has served at Interior for more than a quarter-century and has been the offshore bureau’s
second-in-command for more than a decade. He was named deputy director of MMS in 2002 and retained that role with the former Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement created in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
He’s served under Beaudreau at BOEM since its creation in October 2011.
While it’s unclear how long Cruickshank will act as director, sources suggest Interior does not have immediate plans to name a permanent
successor. One former colleague speculated that Cruickshank is unlikely to vie for the appointment — a political post that requires
no Senate confirmation.
BOEM is in charge of conducting mineral assessments, selling offshore oil and gas leases and reviewing exploration plans, as well as
promoting offshore wind and sand and gravel mining.
Under the Obama administration, Cruickshank helped oversee the agency’s identification of wind energy areas in the mid-Atlantic as
well as a controversial programmatic environmental impact statement allowing the first new oil and gas seismic surveys in the Atlantic in
A former colleague described Cruickshank as a “master of process” whose aptitude for long-term planning jibes well with BOEM’s mandate.
He is viewed as a hands-on, strategic thinker who reads everything and seeks a vocal role in agency decisionmaking.
In the coming weeks or months, Cruickshank could play an integral role in BOEM’s decision whether to open the Atlantic to oil and gas leasing
beginning in 2017. He may oversee a key environmental review to correct deficiencies in a George W. Bush administration Arctic lease
sale, while also deciding where, how and whether to hold new lease sales in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
BOEM is also working with its sister agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, on rules governing future Arctic
exploration and development.
During the Bush administration, Cruickshank emerged relatively unscathed from scandals that gave MMS a public relations black eye and
helped spur its future breakup. Cruickshank did oversee the issuance of royalty-free deepwater leases in the late 1990s that mistakenly
omitted price thresholds designed to protect American taxpayers, though later court rulings made MMS’s mistake a moot point.
Randall Luthi, who directed MMS during the Bush administration and now leads the National Ocean Industries Association in Washington, D.C.,
said Cruickshank’s role ensures consistency during a critical time at BOEM.
“The bureau will be on a steady and sure course until a new director is named,” Luthi said in an email. “Walter has a long and
distinguished career at MMS, BOEMRE and now BOEM. He has deep experience, having long-served as deputy director of MMS and also as
the acting director for MMS on more than one occasion.”
Brian Straessle, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said Cruickshank gives oil and gas operators a “fair hearing” and
carries an impressive resume. Others offered similar praise.
administration, serving in the political post that paralleled Cruickshank’s position. “He’s been part of the offshore regulatory
climate for a number of years and has always demonstrated an interest in making sure that safety and compliance is at the forefront of his
Environmentalists urged Cruickshank to consider the effect that opening the Atlantic to seismic air gun blasts wouuld have on marine
wildlife. BOEM at any time could sign a record of decision finalizing its proposal to allow air gun surveys from Delaware to Florida. Its
proposed environmental stipulations have been a point of controversy
for environmentalists and industry.
Cruickshank would likely oversee that decision, if he’s still director.
“We hope that he will use this opportunity to identify new ways of achieving the agency’s goals that are sensitive to environmental and
conservation needs,” said an emailed statement from Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans for Oceana. “We hope he will recognize
that offshore drilling in the Atlantic is not a foregone conclusion, and with the secretary’s help, bring a new, twenty-first century
perspective to the agency.”
Cruickshank earned a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from Cornell University and a doctorate in mineral economics from
Pennsylvania State University. The Boston native is married with two daughters.