MMS Chief Out: 'Heckuva Job, Lizzie!'

President Obama, quick to criticize George W. Bush for his appointment of a lightly-qualified Michael Brown as FEMA director, apparently learned little from his predecessor’s mistake.


In today’s press conference, President Obama claimed to know nothing of MMS Director Liz Birnbaum’s sudden departure. Whatever. Let’s consider Liz’s qualifications to be the head of the agency charged with regulating rigs like the Deepwater Horizon and 30% of domestic oil production.

Brown/Harvard Law? Check. Environmental lawyer? Check. Environmental policy wonk? Check. Experienced with oil and gas technology?

<*chirp*> … <*chirp*>

Liz’s bio (below the fold) is chock-full of counseling, coordinating, legislating and advocating, but very little doing. I posit that Ms. Birnbaum would not know an oil well if she fell into one.

Under Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Minerals Management Service became an instrument by which the Administration advances its Green Energy/Green Jobs vision. The MMS Cape Wind and other renewable projects were the way to really get noticed within the agency. Oil and gas were so … so, over.

Other MMS top management resumes can be found here. Note that the emphasis is heavy on environmental activism, light on oil and gas experience.

Ex-industry hands tend to develop ‘cozy relationships’, don’t you know?

MMS Director S. Elizabeth Birnbaum Biography

Photo of Liz Birnbaum, Director of MMSS. Elizabeth (Liz) Birnbaum assumed duties as Director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) 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 nation’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 nation’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.

Birnbaum has been an officer and member of numerous boards and commissions, including the National Capital Section of the American Water Resources Association; Arlington County Environment and Energy Conservation Commission; and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section of the District of Columbia Bar.

Birnbaum received her Juris Doctor from Harvard University in 1984 and her A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 1979. She was Editor in Chief of the Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 8.


[emphasis added throughout]

Cross-posted at VladEnBlog.


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