Director of Offshore Drilling Regulatory Agency Fired

The word from MSNBC and The AP is that Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the offshore drilling regulator Minerals Management Service, has been fired.

Birnbaum has only been head of the agency since July 2009—that’s less time than her boss, Ken Salazar, has been at his post as Secretary of the Department of Interior, which oversees MMS. We’ve put in a call to MMS to confirm these reports.

It’s also worth pointing out that just yesterday, The New York Times ran a profile on Birnbaum, calling her “the oil spill’s invisible woman.” The Times noted that her background is mostly with environmental organizations, and when she took the MMS’ top job, she “had virtually no experience with the oil and gas industry, but that was seen as a plus.”

News of Birnbaum’s departure from MMS follows the resignation of MMS associate director Chris Oynes, announced earlier this month.

We’ve been covering the troubles over at the Minerals Management Service for a while now. The agency’s problems run the gamut, from lax regulation of “good friends” in the oil industry to recurring sex, drug and porn problems. Secretary Salazar has announced plans to shake up the structure of MMS to mitigate the agency’s conflict of interest, but many continue to question whether this move will be enough.

Article by Marian Wang appearing courtesy ProPublica

photo: US Department of the Interior

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