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. MIKEB


    May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Buddy

    It's funny how conservatives are always complaining about government interfering with big business...

    Beside Rush Limpballs said oil leaks into the ocean all the time and the ocean is self healing – so go F%ck yourself

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

      This is absolutely correct. If the government gets involved, it is SOCIALISM. If the government lets the engineers and experts try to fix the problem, they are not doing enough and to blame for the whole mess. America is ridiculous!

      May 27, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tom from the Gulf


    May 27, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Siara Delyn

    I heard that other countries like Canada require the emergency passage that we're drilling now (that last case scenario 2nd hole) to be drilled in advance before each well even starts producing. Is it true that we used to have that regulation too? Who suspended it and why did they suspend it?

    May 27, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom from the Gulf

      Money hungry oil grubbers, that's who. More worried about the bottom line. They'll all be dead and gone before they have to worry about the consequences of their actions, and our children will be left with a dying world. It's a shame...the almighty dollar wins out again.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • terry in dallas

      The stupulation that a second hole be drilled was waved when G W Bush let the Oil companies write our energy policies.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. zookz


    May 27, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. islander

    How could she have resigned AND been fired at the same time? Somebody please clarify. Regardless, this "removal" should be only the first step in getting justice for this disaster. Indictments for criminal negligence need to start flowing like water from the Justice Department to all involved in federal and local oversight of BP in the Gulf, and to all BP executives who ignored the warning signs. This should be easy. THEIR TESTIMONY IS ALREADY ON THE RECORD. The only way to make sure this doesn't happen again is, like Enron, start putting people in jail. Then BP needs to have it's drilling leases in the United States revoked for a period of 100 years starting today. If the Obama administration does this, then we know they're serious about fixing the problem!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • zookz

      Note the times on the announcements:
      Earlier announcement states she was fired. Later one annouces that she resigned. Stuff happens when journalists depend on rumor, gossip, innuendo, and "anonymous sources" instead of credible journalistic work.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Let's Move On

      It's sort of like when they go into a prisoner's cell, hand him a pistol with a single bullet in it, and leave him alone for a while we he debates if he'd rather shoot himself of be taken out and shot. I suspect that she 'resigned of her own volition' because Salazar had a termination letter in his briefcase, and she knew it.

      May 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. terry in dallas

    The current govt is in the process of rounding up all the usual suspects. ya know, osama, fidel, drug dealers, illegal immigrant, fast food menus but mostly insurgents to blame this on. Definition of insurgent == dead one, cause all the civilians got away. just read any news story.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. zookz

    DIDNT DODD BLAME THIS ON BUSH OVER THE PAST WEEKEND? (Disclaimer. I am NOT a Bush fan, but somethings are just to absurd to not speak out against).

    May 27, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Buddy

      Bush is responsible for 9/11!

      May 27, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. CincinnatiG

    Those who blame this catastrophe on President Obama are grossly misguided. If you are one these IDIOTS, please return to the right wing rock you crawled out from under.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. Marie Richards

    I do not believe that Obama, the minerals agency or anybody else but BP are fully responsible for the mess of the oil. The issue here is that the company should be prepared to deal with a disaster of this magnitude and also be prepared to fix it in a timely manner. BP's disaster should be an educated example for all of those oil companies that are dealing with this issue diary: disasters does happens and in a case like this the company should be prepared to deal with it, meaning that it should be with the right equipment to cure the problem. The government is not to be blamed for this disaster. The government does not operate they only regulate companies. Now, due to this disaster, BP and other oil companies should put their intelligence together and create a corrective measure to handle a possible situation like this in the near future. If this accident happened now is for those companies to open their eyes and start taking remedies to avoid the same mistake once again. I believe that is in their best interest to start planning now since after the fact it is very expensive.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jessica

    What I dont get about the RIght Wing is this: You want ZERO govt intervention in business, you think business not only can but will regulate itself and "do the right thing". So here is Obama, sitting back, doing what republicans would advoctate for – and let BP handle its "mess". Yet, then you complain about Obama doing nothing? WHich is it folks, do you want him to take charge and have the govt handle this mess...or do you want to allow business to handle things, which we all have been arguing for EONS that they simply do not care to do. They want money, bottom line...anything that prohibits that, they arent interested in, and cleaning up their mess falls directly in line with that. They spent WEEKS trying options that would allow them to still suck up the oil, rather than FIRST stopping the flow...then maybe figuring out how to tap into it. Their priorities are askewed and frankly this example should be all we need to see for how business conducts itself in the absence of a federal hand guiding the way.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • CincinnatiG

      Trying to apply logic and rationality to the right wing is an exercise in futility. Don't waste your time. These people hate for no reason and are hypocritical beyond imagination.

      May 27, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. sungod

    okay so u wanna make somebody(s) culpable? then all of Amerikkka should be blamed cuz we allow this mess to continue. I heard Obama has a moratorium of 6 months of offshore drilling. How bout u just stop drilling period. We allow the govt to do whatever they want and look at the results. As long as the money flows who cares if some wildlife is destroyed or the fish industry takes a nosedive right? it is past time to look at other alternatives to govt and energy sources.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. jvanfire

    Where the hell is Cheney when we need a whipping boy? Oh yeah, he and Halliburton and gone to ground until this one blows over...He and his national energy policy buddies are the ones who deserve some of the heat on this one..

    May 27, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. Katie

    A two-year wait before a regulator can get a job as an oil company lobbyist is LAME. How about a 5-10 year wait before any US regulator or lawmaker can get a job as a lobbyist. I blame our government for this horrible spill. Under Republican regimes since Reagan, people like Dick Cheney made sure that we were falling over ourselves to ensure that we didn't restrict oil companies in any way. Other countries required backup BlowOut Protectors for permits and a second well to help protect against a situation like this where a mile underwater it is almost impossible to fix. In the US we didn't and thus now we are drilling the second well and considering a backup BOP after the oil has been gushing into the gulf for a month. Ironically it is a foreign oil company who has benefitted from this when our intent was to help our darling Exxon Mobil. And a $75 Million cap was put on costs for the oil companies in our Oil Polution act of 1990. I'll bet a lot of money that the Republicans were responsible for that!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Buddy

    Ms. Bush has killed more people than this oil spil!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
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