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Obama to sever ties between drilling cops and Big Oil

As oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration moves to break up the agency tasked with both collecting royalties and policing Big Oil.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announces that the Obama administration is splitting up the Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling in Washington on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Working hard to contain the political as well as the ecological damage of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration on Tuesday vowed to shake up the Interior Department agency responsible for policing Big Oil's deepwater drilling operations along America's continental shelf.

As a number of Congressional probes into the April 20 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico got underway Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a proposal to split the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in half, separating its policing function from its royalty-collection arm. Critics say there's always been a conflict of interest in having the same agency that collects $13 billion in royalties a year be responsible for inspecting rigs, enforcing safety rules, and probing skullduggery.

IN PICTURES: Destructive oil spills

"I think what is driving a lot of moves toward tighter regulations is our trust has been violated, and when trust is breached or lost, it's hard to get it back," says Duane Gill, an oil spill disaster expert at Oklahoma State University.

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