May 27th, 2010
11:07 AM ET

Director of offshore drilling agency out

[Updated at 11:07 a.m.] Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the House Appropriations subcommittee that Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum resigned.

"She did it on her own terms and own volition," Salazar said. "But I will say she is a strong and very effective person who among other things helped us break through the very difficult things, which we have a lot more work to do. She helped us with addressing a very broken system. And all I can really tell this committee is that she is a good public servant."

[Posted at 10:51 a.m.] Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service which oversees offshore drilling, has been fired, a source tells CNN.

A senior administration official also told CNN that Birnbaum has been fired and that an official announcement will come at the President Obama’s news conference, which is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. ET Thursday.

The decision to fire Birnbaum comes in the wake of a recently released report highlighting what many observers have characterized as widespread corruption at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is part of the Interior Department.

Among other things, the report, issued by the Interior Department's inspector general, revealed that federal inspectors overseeing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico accepted meals and tickets to sporting events from companies they monitored.

In one case, an inspector in the MMS office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, conducted inspections of four offshore platforms while negotiating a job with the company, the report stated.

As part of the growing push to crack down on the MMS, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, introduced legislation Wednesday requiring federal oil industry regulators to wait at least two years after leaving government service before going to work for companies they helped regulate.

Among other things, the bill would bar regulators from accepting gifts from oil companies. It also would require regulators to divest any stock they may currently hold in oil companies, and prohibit regulators from part-time employment in the industry.

While introducing the bill, Nelson blasted a "cozy, incestuous relationship between the oil industry and the regulators."

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Filed under: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. rawr

    scapegoat

    May 27, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • j1c2

      rawr beat me to it. My first thought was scapegoat but they probably need to fire most in that agency.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Jacob

      Yup. Scapegoat.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      yep gov needs someone on the end to fry

      May 27, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      If it's true that she was fired, then Ken Salazar should also be fired immediately for being such a stupid liar.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      First the article says she resigned under her own terms. In the next paragraph it says she was fired. Another good example of how the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. No wonder we're in so much trouble....

      May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • tony.a

      It's called accountability...

      May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      shes not a scape goat..
      She's the head of the agency that enabled this crap to happen !, she needs to go.. a whole lot more people need to go !.
      and again.. its crazy that no one in Government ever gets fired... they all "resign". BS.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • John C. Sailors

      SEEMS TO ME THIS IS JUST ONE MORE AREA OF FEDERAL GOVT NOT DOING THEIR JOBS... 36 DAYS IS WAY TOO LONG FOR FEDERAL GOVT TO SIT ON THEIR HANDS AND SAY WELL ITS UP TO BP. THE AREA NEEDS 100'S OF SKIMMING BOATS AT WORK TO STOP THIS DISASTER DOING ANY MORE DAMAGE. THE GOVT HAS A NAVY AND COAST GUARD THAT HAS MANY BOATS THAT COULD BE HELPING CLEAN THIS UP. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW THAN CLEANING UP THIS OIL. FOR AN OIL COMPANY TO SAY WELL WE DON'T KNOW – THIS HAS NEVER BEEN TRIED BEFORE. MAYBE THEY ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. 10O'S OF 1,000'S
      OF PEOPLE DEPEND ON THE GULF TO LIVE111 THEY SHOULD BE HIRED TO HELP WITH CLEAN UP INSTEAD OF WAITING AROUND FOR BP TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO. CLEAN UP THE OIL...LET BP STOP THE LEAK AND LET FEDERAL GOVT CLEAN IT UP. B O T H AT SAME TIME. BP SHOULD HAVE HAD ON HAND OIL DISPURSEMENT PRODUCTS. NOT WAIT TILL NEEDED THEN SAY OH WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGHT !!!! THIS WILL BRING THE OBAMA GOVT DOWN.... WON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT 2ND TERM. SO BUSY SAYING ARZ IMMIGRATION LAW IS BAD – BUT NO FEDERAL LAW & THE PEOPLE TO STOP PEOPLE COIMING ACROSS BOARDERS... I HOPE TEXAS & FLORIDA ADOPT THIS SAME LAWS.. HOW HARD IS IT TO ASK AFRTER THEY HAVE ALREADY BROKEN LAW. DO U HAVE A GREEN CARD??? ALL POLICE AGENCYS CAN SURE AFFORD 5 MINUTES FOR US ALL TO BE SAFE. THANKS

      May 27, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Braves

      This administration is a joke!! Now it is finally saying it's taking responsibility. Can you believe this guy is president – we would have been much better off with someone else. This guy's been in office over a year and still blaming bush – here's a clue – STEP UP and stop being a typical Democrate for once.

      May 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • diaryofamisEducatedblackman

      once again, the blame game..it never ends
      A United City defeats a Nation

      http://www.diaryofamiseducatedblackman.com

      May 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      I think Sara should be the one taken the dive here to put a cap on the leak. Funny no-one is taking about her screaming drill baby drill..

      May 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • camberly lillich

      No. Buck stops at the person at the top. That entire department should be dismantled and everyone in it FIRED!!!

      May 27, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tommy

      @Braves

      Oh, please, most of this crap happened under the Bush administration.

      May 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CADDYDADDY94

    SCAPEGOAT

    May 27, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. LakeviewGal

    Heck of a job, Lizzie!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • BStone

      LOL. Her and Brownie should start a Ponzi scheme together

      May 27, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. BJNJ

    How about Salzaar and Obama. Fire them too! If only smiling could solve problems, our celebrity would be the best.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • voice of reason

      couldn't agree more! let's take off the obama kid gloves once and for all... and start, with CNN realizing he is NOT our savior! ...

      May 27, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Sure. Let's blame EVERYTHING on Obama, speaking of scapegoats. This is BP and Transocean's responsibilty due to obvious negligence. Right-Wing nutjob.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Agreed, too bad some experience in government (and I mean more than 1/2 a term) isn't more of a factor for most of the voting lemmings in this country. I will also say that if the Republicans can't SELECT better candidates (they do exist) what should we expect but a vote for the smiling face of clueless change. If the Republicans remain blind to the desire of the majority I expect we can look forward to a Sarah Palin / Bobby Jindal ticket or some other equally inempt candidates that will further polarize and destroy this country. Am I the only person in America that would like to see a less right "Right Wing" and a less left "Left Wing"? It seems like one party just wants to appease Haliburton and the other just wants to appease those living in San Francisco, we need a party that wants to appease the rest of us... you know the actual MAJORITY.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • dorothy

      Give me a break! Obama has to start taking responsibilty as "the buck stops here" Offical instead of playing the blame game. Can hardly wait for 2012 so an "adult" can be elected be R or D. By the way HC was right in her middle of the
      night phone call ad. On second thought this years mid-terms could be a turning point, throw the U;tra Libs out of office
      then Congress will be able to hold Obama's feet to the fire.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Richp, Easton, Pa

      Sorry chris, but there is no difference between either party, they are out playing their own game on American soil and could care less about the country. Show me one piece of legislation that has been passed in the last 10 or 20 years that has actually accomplished it's 'advertised' goals and has not come back to bite us in the but a few years later. Just wait till health care kicks in after the elections, that is going to be a whopper.

      May 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. damiao

    What does she do? http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com

    May 27, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • db

      Draws a fat government check like all the other fat cats sucking on the preverbable government milk and honey provider. Any government employee should have to justify their job, performance, and duties every year if they make over $200K or leave Government Service.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • db

      Obvioulsy she was appointed to the position not knowing anything about the requirements, duties, or responsibilities and did as expected, nothing but draw a paycheck. She was probably a croney of the Obama campaign staff and got here reward, now ends up being a sacrificial lamb.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Colorado

      Oh, please. She has been working at various posts for multiple presidents. She has been heavily criticized even up to the spill for a poor job. Government is business. You don't fire the CEO every time you miss a sales number, you fire the Sales Manager. If you want the government to be run better you do exactly this. You continue to hire good people into the right positions, and fire people who can't do the job. In addition, the posts about MMS are mostly good. It was formed in 1982 by a Republican congress to manage royalties, etc. It has been notable for the fact that many people have left to assume high positions in the industry, and has been notable for oil money corruption. Salazar has been in the process of breaking it up since he took control, and has been shutting down various parts of it.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. js

    In the words of Mark Knopfler "punish the monkey, let the organ grinder go"

    May 27, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    She should be forced to eat oil soaked seafood now.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jon

    Scapegoat

    May 27, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. nicole

    well, that's a start......now for the rest of the idiots in charge.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jerome

    Firing the wrong people! – this is a symbollic move at best.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tyler Durden

    Wow. Serious reprimand! I can almost feel the back of my wrist tingling in sympathy

    May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jim the Anvil

    FIring a mid-level monkey is always a good thing!!!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Christopher Hitchens

    Scapegoat.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. Claude626

    It will be interesting to see who appointed her, as this is going to get REALLY political, as the MMS is now going to be totally under the microscope...!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • william mcdowell

      when was she hired what were her qualifications? under whose administration was she hired?

      May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jim the Anvil

    I also think she has to go before a congressional or senate committee before she gets her severance package.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
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