Did Minerals Management Service Director Resign Or Get Fired?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the resignation of Minerals Management Service (MMS) Director Elizabeth Birnbaum on Thursday  at the congressional hearing where she was scheduled to testify. Birnbaum did not show up to the hearing. Birnbaum served as the MMS director since July 2009. Neither Salazar’s remarks or Birnbaum’s indicate she was fired.

“Elizabeth Birnbaum is a strong and effective person and leader,” said Salazar. “She helped break through tough issues including offshore renewable development and helped us take important steps to fix a broken system. She is a good public servant. She resigned today on her own terms and on her own volition. I thank her for her service and wish her the very best.”

“I’m grateful to the President and to the Secretary for allowing me to serve this Administration and the country,” said Birnbaum. “It’s been a great privilege to serve as Director of the MMS. I have enormous admiration for the men and women of the MMS who do a difficult job under challenging circumstances. I’m hopeful that the reforms that the Secretary and the Administration are undertaking will resolve the flaws in the current system that I inherited.”

Birnbaum’s short letter of resignation is posted on the Department of the Interior’s website:

“Please accept my resignation as Director of the Minerals Management Service effective today. As you move forward with the reorganization of Minerals Management Service, you will be requiring three new leaders for the Office Natural Resources, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.”

Obama said of Birnbaum’s resignation, “Ken Salazar has been in testimony throughout the day, so I don’t know the circumstances in which this occurred.”

House Committee on Natural Resources chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), said Birnbaum’s resignation “does not address the root problem.” Rahall added, “She has only been the public face of MMS for 11 months and the most serious allegations occurred prior to her tenure. This might on the surface be a good start but must not be the end game.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed with Rahall, and said, “There has to be a systemic change there, not just personnel.”

Obama pointed out that when Salazar took office the MMS “had been plagued by corruption for years–this was the agency charged with not only providing permits, but also enforcing laws governing oil drilling.” He cited a recent Inspector General’s report “that covered activity which occurred prior to 2007–a report that can only be described as appalling.” Although he said that Salazar “immediately took steps to clean up that corruption,” Obama added that the oil spill “has made it clear that more reforms are needed.”

During the Bush administration, the MMS and oil companies were tight. As Obama put it, “For years, there has been a scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them.” For that reason the Obama administration decided to separate the “people who permit the drilling from those who regulate and ensure the safety of the drilling.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

One response

  1. Obama is a lying punk. If he knew about the corruption from the Bush admin., Why didn't he fix it?? It's called “Put some Money in my pocket”. Lying PUNK!!

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