US fires head of agency that oversees oil drilling
Salazar tells NBC Birnbaum resigned
The head of the troubled agency that oversees offshore drilling resigned under pressure Thursday, Democratic sources said, as President Barack Obama moved more aggressively to take charge of the Gulf oil spill.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar confirmed to NBC News that the head of Minerals Management Service resigned, despite earlier reports she was fired.
Birnbaum was pushed out after she and her agency came under withering criticism from lawmakers of both parties over lax oversight of drilling and cozy ties with industry.
The Obama Administration has fired the head of the agency that oversees oil drilling and the collecting of oil royalties, AP reported on its live wire feed Thursday morning.
“AP sources: Elizabeth Birnbaum fired as director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service,” the brief said.
Birnbaum didn’t attend a press conference organized by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday.
Salazar announced plans earlier this month to split the Minerals Management Agency into two divisions: one charged with oversight of resource extraction, and another charged with collecting revenues from such extractions. Critics say that the fact the agency is supposed to both oversee drillers and collect money from them put the division at an inherent conflict of interest when it came to oversight.
According to the Washington Post’s WhoRunsGov, Birnbaum was expected to take over as head of one of two new agencies.
Birnbaum was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. According to her bio page at the agency’s website she assumed duties on July 15, 2009:
As MMS Director, Birnbaum administers programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and ocean current energy; and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas, as well as the collection and distribution of revenues for minerals developed on federal and American Indian lands.
Before her appointment, she was staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw strategy development, budget management and staff activities for the committee that manages legislative branch agencies. From 2001-2007, she was Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel for American Rivers, where she directed advocacy programs for the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leading river conservation organization.
At the Department of the Interior, Birnbaum was Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources from 2000 to 2001, supervising and managing a staff of attorneys that provided legal advice, developed regulations and conducted litigation on minerals issues for the Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation.
In addition, she was a special assistant to the Interior Solicitor, from 1999 to 2000, overseeing legal policy on a range of natural resource issues, including mining law, public land management and hydropower licensing. From 1991 to 1999 she was counsel to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she handled legislative and oversight activities for the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and electric power marketing administrations. From 1987 to 1991 she was counsel for the Water Resources Program of the National Wildlife Federation.
No other details are yet available.
RAW STORY will have more as this story develops.