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. nice start

    It's a good start. The MMS is a joke organization tha is in bed with oil. There is much more to be done to fix this.

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

    I don't see why they fired her, its not like she is responsible for the leak. Blaming someone does not fix the problem

    May 27, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. HT

    How much severence?

    May 27, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. carol

    The MM Department has been headed up by Bush cronies. Obama should have fired all of them there and the Justice deaprtmrnt when he came into office. Most of these Bush appointments are as ignorant as he is.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mary

    I want to see them all fired. With all heir assets seized to go towards helping clean he oil. A trailer parked at the ocean for them to live in..Required to physically work 8 hours a day at minimum wage, no health benefits..Until every drop of oil is cleaned up. For the rest of their lives is that is how long it takes..
    This is a better sentence than they have condemned their world, their country,their oceans , the wild life, their states and their fellow Americans to.
    Let them suffer the opposite of their greed and live in poverty, let them work and suffer as the people they have walked over.Let them pay the appropriate price. To live and share in the mess they made.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Craig

    She and the others at her former agency should be required to go clean up the worst of the oil at the lowest allowable pay rate.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Vaughn M

    Salazar should be out too. What a horrible mess.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cynthia

    I have seen the oil pumping out and I thought, than trying to stop the leak. Maybe, the best thing to do is convert it by covering the hole with a large tube and direct it into the other leak. The larger pressure will overtake the smaller one. This way you can contain the leak until it is finally plugged. Then, separate the oil from the water. Firing people will not solve the problem. Then the oil companies should have had a better handle on their equipment.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tom from the Gulf

    You guys all point the finger at Obama. You fail to realize people (and I) live down here by the gulf. Bush didn't do a thing either, during Katrina. All the staunch, greedy Republicans getting a cut of oil profits (Oil companies post largest profits ever!!) is total garbage. My life here in Louisiana will never be the same. We got screwed in Katrina from one administration, and now the finger pointing begins as another disaster is hitting my home. I should just move to Canada...what ever happened to people over throwing the government? If it weren't for those brave folks, we'd all be ruled by England, with indentured servants and slave trades. What happened to our guts? Everyone is too concerned with letting someone else handle it to keep their own butt out of trouble.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Holly

      Yeah, BUT....... Everyone called is RACISM when Bush wasn't able to stop a hurricane and thousands of homeless/ghetto street thugs from raping, killing, and stealing... So now it's "ok" that NOTHING has been done because we have a black president ?! I am calling a BS card! That is crap! Bush should have responded sooner and most importantly Obama should have put a stop to this A LONG TIME AGO! Hurricane Katrina affected a small portion of this country. This oil spill could kill more wildlife and put more fishermen,small towns, and business owners out of business along the gulf than hurricane Katrina ever could have! Obama is WAY WORSE of a president that Bush, it's just easier to hate the white man! Get over yourselves!

      May 27, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • CNN is dumb


      May 27, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. Holly

    Pathetic! We need someone to blame so badly that this woman is who we pick to make ourselves feel better? Good Lord! This is PATHETIC!!! Let's fired and inprison BP or the other thousands of people who have thoroughly F-ed up! This is obserd. Welcome to America!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      So the officials that did special favors and looked the other way..And probably took money to do that..Should not be required to pay for doing that? Had they of done their jobs BP would have been forced to do theirs right..

      May 27, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. sungod

    absolutely ludicrous the whole govt should be terminated long live anarchy. You dont know who is culpable or if it is even necessary to find out and so you fire people? If anyone or anybody should be fired it should be the government who supposed to regulate and better our future yet they continue to allow gross negligence of our planet and its resources.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. kevin John Gil

    Long as the keep their 'boot on the throat of PB' – (What ever THAT rhetoric means, as the US itself DOES NOT HAVE THE CAPABILITY or EQUIPMENT to stop or even contain this leak.)

    May 27, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • sungod

      My biggest concern is where are all the safeguard of the safeguards? If the blowout thingamajig doesnt fxn properly then what was going to contain the oil? I am baffled why no one was pondering that realistic outcome...when spit happens use a Kleenex!!!

      May 27, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. NoWay

    Start something that will get the pros and cons of oil fired up – NATIONALIZE all oil drilling and refining companies and subsidiaries Venezuela style. That should stop the naysayers and all other supporters and critics of oil.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. mel

    She didnt have a 5000 ft dip stick

    May 27, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. JHM

    Um, "valition"? Is it not supposed to be "volition"???? Or is a special case because Ms. Birnbaum is from the Valley?

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