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. Tom

    Well in my dumb opion of the day the scape goat should see prison time too

    May 27, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Colin in Florida

    There are known cases of drilling inspectors (reported by CNN & others) of inspectors accepting gifts and meals from the drilling companies. For this reason alone, she has to go, along with many drilling inspectors and supervisors.

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

    I thought she only had the job since July 2009. That's too short a time to make much difference even if she was attempting to change things. So who is the replacement is the question (who'd want the job, lol).

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

    The American people should fire the crowd in leadership. It is time for the responsible party to take time off from his fund raising and get to the job somebody elected him to do.Firing the underlings is not the answer.The polls is the place to start and the media should use the same tactics that they used against Bush. If this attempt was suppose to be 60 percent successful why was it not used first off.

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

      so what would you have the current admin do? ppl wanna make other blameworthy yet dont come up with a real solution. I am speaking candidly about this because i am tired of ppl wanting to demonize Pres. Obama and his admin for things that are beyond their control. You have "experts" working on it so let them. Do u want some to hold ur hand and pat ur head assuring the best when in reality itz pandemonium? Think ppl...if ur not part of the solution then ur part of the problem(or ur an insignificant variable). Which are u?

      May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • MoSense

      Sorry folks, you can't have it both ways. You can't scream about government being too big and spending too much and then turn around and scream because it doesn't swoop in and save the situation Lone Ranger style at billions of dollars of taxpayer expense. Grow up. Get a life. Get a brain.

      May 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubba

    Did they use real fire?

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

    sounds like another version of BP BS.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. jar

    Moron Salzaar, cannot do anything better.....

    May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. mitchyj

    I'm sure she's another bureaucratic lackey but she's a scapegoat nevertheless. They all should be fired.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Frodowsi

    She has only been in place since July 2009. Seems the wrong head has rolled.

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

      The wrong people is also Obama and the current gov. Both parties have been courting the oil companies for many years.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. mitchyj

    BTW, I love Obama but Salazar and Napolitano are both clueless. Sadly, both parties are filled with imcompetents.

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

      Yeah, put Salizar and Napolitano in a big paper sack and neither of them could find their way out. Presidents should surround themselves with smart, hard working viable people in their cabinets. Unfortunately for Barrack, looks like he went the other way on many of his choices. Only a person fearful of being upstaged or exposed would surround themselves with the incompetent idiots he has picked. HMMMMMMM????????????????????

      May 27, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. jakedog

    SCAPEGOAT.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kenster

    The real question for us the taxpayer is whether she and that other round faced dude from MMS who chose to retire suddenly, recently posted on CNN, will get the usual govenment retirement benefits. To stem corruption we should make loss of all benefits a reality for any proven wrong doings. Aren't there some congressman in prison still getting government pensions?

    May 27, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Absolutely agree. The american taxpayer gets hosed every day for crap like this. Make them give up their pensions and benefits and use that money towards paying the fisherman in Lousiana who have not been able to work for 40 days.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Paulo

    Would love to know what her severance and retirement package is. She will just land at BP, Exxon, Valero by July 1.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. jlannefeld

    Ah come on, she is no more to blame for this disaster than any other individual. It was an accident, pure and simple and the solution, though long in coming, was complicated and untested. An awful lot of finger pointing is taking place before the jury is back.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • nice start

      An accident? You have not been keeping up with the news have you? Try this one: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37363106/ns/gulf_oil_spill/

      May 27, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bubba

    When I fire someone, there are scorch marks.

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