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. Cyd

    Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service was sleep at the switch period.
    I agree President Obama should have made more noise an appearances to talk to the American public, but the US Federal government DO NOT HAVE THE EQUIPMENT to deal with such a disaster PERIOD. The Federal Government do my make equipment to stop wells 8,000 feet under the sea Period. You can Blame him if you want but that will not solve the problem at hand that just makes him the scapegoat political reasons only. The MMS has been corrupt for a decade and her firing is more than Justified.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. james Miller

    The Bush administration gutted the agency then handed Obama the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression PLUS two wars. I`m not an Obama fan, but he`s light years better, so far, than Bush-er Chenny.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • IM


      May 27, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. POD

    I got a million bucks says she ends up with a sweet executive gig in the oil industry after this whole thing blows over.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. S & N

    I really wish people would educate themselves before they pass judgement or better yet post a comment on here.

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

    Obama is talking about cutting off all off-shore drill for the next six months... what does this mean for those jobs? Our economy is in tough enough shape as it is all ready. This was an ACCIDENT! It could happen to any major company. It turns out to be nothing but a blame game from every angle and I'm sick of it! This is why I hate ALL politics. It's a joke!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom from the Gulf ACCIDENT that cost us the beauty of our coastline, possibly a large part of the shrimping industry,....what about THOSE jobs? Or don't you care? And what about the intense amount of wildlife that died because of an "ACCIDENT?" This whole thing is ridiculous. This is going to take so long to clean up, if they can ever stop it, and BP should foot the bill....but will the gulf ever be the same? Will our beaches be clean again? You don't have to live here...I do.

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

      of course he wants to cut it off. More money for the arab countries!

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

      It may not have been an accident. It may be negligence.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • lny

      I'm a Mississippi resident and I frequent the MS & LA coasts on a regular basis. I understand the significance of the wildlife... and I'm not saying just ignore and forget about it. It does need to be cleaned up and fixed. BUT, we have to do a better job of working together and solving this problem. Simply playing the blame game is not going to work!

      May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. markiejoe

    She resigned of her own volition, not "valition."

    May 27, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cam McDonald


    May 27, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      If you are in "charge" of an agency you are responsible for what is going on inside of it.. How does that make her a "scapegoat"? It's simply how it works..She is supposed to be on top or what is going on..In this case it appears right in the middle of it! She deserves to loose her job.

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

      Woman dont like to be on top

      May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. chuckie

    I wonder what her qualifications in the oil business were for the job? Perhaps the ones that appointed her should also be on the chopping block.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. DKM

    I just saw the video this AM on CNN about oil on the OCEAN in the gulf and was completely disgusted of what is going on down there...BP can concentrate on the well down in the Ocean but where are the US forces and environmental organisations who should have been cleaning this mess up all along once the oil first broke the surface and started to spread. For those of you who are religious this is an unforgivable sin against nature and the earth which we're suppose to be protecting and the lack of political authority and direction is just a disgrace. How do you expect the creatures who can't fend for themselves to survive... how do you expect people to live and make a living in this mess. Shame on you BP .... Shame on you Obama and if this spreads further...Shame on you America for letting your greed get in the way of what's right and what's wrong.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. MIKEB


    May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom from the Gulf

      And what did YOU do? You and HOLLY are about the same mentality. FIRE FIRE FIRE....instead of, "Hey, let's take care of the people that live there"....Sure...Obama's not the best president...and I'm not calling Racism on Bush....his failure to action was terrible, too. What do you want Obama to do, though? Put on a magic sucking vacuum and pull all the oil out? What can he do? Our government isn't equipped to stop a massive oil slick. They can respond with aid for Katrina victims, though. Until you live have no valid opinion. Let's go for a swim...and then you'll see.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. danno

    Great how about Salazaar and a bunch more of them....clean out the whole

    May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Holly


    May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. Blanca Vinje

    I think, Mr. Salazar should also be fired. All these abuses happened under his watch.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. terry in dallas

    I take this opportunity to resign my position. Even though I don't work for any agency involved I still resign so that my name is forever clear of the debacle.

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

    sounds like the republicans are marching all over this, didn't hear a word out them during Katrina

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