City of Brass

City of Brass


accountability: Elizabeth Birnbaum fired from MMS (updated with video)

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The official estimates of the Gulf oil spill have been revised upwards to 4x greater than previously stated, making this disaster far larger than the Exxon Valdez. It was partly pressure from liberals that forced BP to permit independent scientists to make these better estimates, instead of trusting the lowballed numbers that BP execs tried to sell.

President Obama has been coming in for a fair amount of critique for not having done enough. To some extent, that’s unfair, as far as technology response goes – it’s BP that has equipment and the expertise. BP executives have indeed been lying and obstructing like crazy, and BP will need to be held to account for that, but the people in the field are professionals who really want to solve this problem.

It’s tempting to scream, “send in the Marines!” and demand that Obama row out to the spill site and single-handedly swim down to seal the well personally like Aquaman. But the problem here is a culture of deregulation and lack of accouuntability endemic to the oil industry and the government agencies – especially MMS, the Minerals Management Service – who are tasked with oversight. So the best thing that Obama can do – and has been doing – is to take political and legal steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

And along those lines, we just heard that the director of MMS, Elizabeth Birnbaum, has been fired. And, all off-shore new drilling contracts have been suspended for at least a year – affecting all the oil companies, not just BP.

I do feel bad for Birnbaum. The contrast with “Heckuva job, Brownie” couldn’t be clearer. I don’t know if she was incompetent or corrupt, but either way this was her job and she failed. If there are no penalties for failure, then there will be more failures, and we can’t afford that. Accountability is key to changing the environment and attitudes that directly led to this ongoing tragedy.

UPDATE: video feed from Obama’s live press conference:

live-blogged at Daily Kos – Obama handles direct questions about how much he has been doing, how in control the federal government has been, and what further steps will be taken to reform MMS. This pretty much ends any concern on my part.

Here’s Birnbaum’s bio from the Director page at the MMS, sure to be erased soon. LizBirnbaumHR.jpg

S. 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.



  • bird

    Aziz–Thanks so much for posting this news and especially the video. I hadn’t seen it. As horrible as this disaster is, I’m reassured to hear the president’s response and to know that he is on the case.

  • Luci

    How do you deal with a disaster that’s never happened before? Give the President a break. He is doing his best and none of us could do the job any better.

  • Marv

    If this is his best and I’m sure it is based on his other responses,
    we are in deeper s— than even most of us thought. Bird, you are as naive as they come.

  • Mark

    Good video – thought the President showed leadershp and respect. Other administration officials including Secretary Salizar EPA’s Jackson have been using this catastrophe to point fingers; the President has clearly taken the problem head on.
    Also, good point on calling out the fact that whatever one may read into BP execs comments, there are tens of thousands of professionals from across the industry working 7 days a week, 14 hour days to tackle this problem…whether it’s the guys operating the submarines, running boom along the shore, or setting up claims processing for fisherman who have lost their livelihoods. That doesn’t seem to make any news…shocked that CNN would spend an entire evening in one particular Louisiana Parish in order to hammer away at the response when there are thousands working their butts off. I thought that was insulting…so happy that you recognize that there are committed US citizens working on this.

  • Steve Sandberg

    To answer the billboard/bumper sticker question that’s quite hot these days – “Miss me yet?”
    Hell no.

  • http://ugginstock.com uggboots

    Archive for the ‘cheap ugg boots’ Category
    Ugg boots, Woolly feet, Oz Outback boots or whatever your preferred nickname meant for Ugg Boots, UGG Australia sale,there’s no doubting that Uggs are the hottest fad in teenager and mature taste. You’ll likely end up in them more than your most well liked pair of skirts, your funkiest hoodie and especially your worn smelly runners! Be warned though that once you decide to ugg you may never wear any of your other shoes again as they are just so comfortable.
    So if you’ve been living the life of a recluse and haven’t yet come across the Ugg madness,sheepskin boots, here’s a lowdown on what this brand new method of footwear is all about and why it is proving to be so incredibly much in demand with childish and old both.
    Australian’s have been wearing sheepskin ugg boots since the Pommes’s cast them from the prison transports to create their brand new country. Ugg’s are so widespread in Oz that attempts to copyright the expression Ugg Boots failed as it was a form of a kind of riding boot and not a exclusive invention.
    Aussie’s love the out back, and despite the temperature of the Australian wilderness, there are masses of times of the year, and sites in Australia when the heat of 100% sheepskin is a certain plus in the nation down under. Popular with the surfing girls and boys, the sight of a couple of Uggs appearing from the side of a VW combi has been gracing the shores of Bell’s Beach since the 60’s. It was just a brief journey across the Pacific from Aussie surf wear to Hollywood sheik-wear with female household name’s getting their women’s Uggs on such as Pam Anderson, and magazine’s like Marie Clare, Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan featuring household name stars and starlets strutting the most up-to-date in sheepskin ugg moon boot vogue. In modern times men’s ugg boots have come into the fray and are frequently to be seen in the mansions and on the side walks of Los Angeles, New York and London.
    Ask your typical Australian and they’ll tell you in relation to the brace of Uggs they had in their adolescent years,ugg slippers, but question the typical US or UK teenager, and they’ll *put on view* you the pair of Uggs they are wearing this week. Typically on behalf of women it will be a couple of women’s tall Uggs in endlessly fashionable classic variety – you simply can’t beat classic styling.
    Be attracted to em, hate em or simply inquisitive – you won’t become aware of a more comfortable, and inviting type of apparel for your toes and who knows – you could just look groovy getting your Ugg on!

  • http://www.watcheslux.com cartier

    I appreciate for your post! I am focus on you. I also want to make friends with you and share my favorite replica Cartier watches to you.

  • http://www.uggbootsretails.com sell ugg

    Do you like the ugg ? Ugg Classic Short Boots are UGG Australia’s original heritage styles. Ugg Classic Tall will keep your feet dry and the ultimate comfortable. The Ugg Bailey Button Boots are popular short boots feature lavish twin-faced sheepskin for the utmost comfort.If you interested you can visit our online store .

  • http://www.uggbootsretails.com sell ugg

    Quality Guaranteed! UGG Classic Tall- All of them have already attracted large number of eyes.We choose top materials like the orginal ones in order to pursuit perfect quality to satisfy our customers UGG Argyle Knit , UGG Classic Cardy. Meanwhile,we cooperate with strong express company to ensure safe and fast delivery.You never need to worry about delivery problems.Do you still hesitate to make an order?All of them are coming with outstanding quality,reasonable prices.If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. UGG Bailey Button -We are looking forward your order!Wish you enjoy your shopping!

  • http://www.uggbootsretails.com sell ugg

    Quality Guaranteed! UGG Classic Tall- All of them have already attracted large number of eyes.We choose top materials like the orginal ones in order to pursuit perfect quality to satisfy our customers UGG Argyle Knit , UGG Classic Cardy. Meanwhile,we cooperate with strong express company to ensure safe and fast delivery.You never need to worry about delivery problems.Do you still hesitate to make an order?All of them are coming with outstanding quality,reasonable prices.If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. UGG Bailey Button -We are looking forward your order!Wish you enjoy your shopping!

  • http://www.allhotugg.com UGG Boots

    winter is coming. i want to order one pair ugg boots. i like the sheepskin boots . hope i will get cheap ugg boots from ugg uk.

  • http://www.allhotugg.com UGG Boots

    winter is coming. i want to order one pair ugg boots. i like the sheepskin boots . hope i will get cheap ugg boots from ugg uk.

  • http://www.uggshoes7.com classic tall ugg

    ugg shoes, it is beautiful for all girl.

  • http://www.uggshoes7.com classic tall ugg

    ugg shoes, it is beautiful for all girl.

  • http://www.bagonhand.com Your Name

    Like youth basketball jerseys and other nba jerseys, the nfl jerseys are of original but to be cheap nfl jerseys. The http://www.nfljerseyonline.com also offers nfl Jerseys Wholesale and nfl jerseys sale. All the sports jerseys presented are made of high-quality fabric with delicate sewing crafts and are therefore comfortable. Putting on a jersey of your favorite team will make you feel being part of them. http://www.nfljerseyonline provides the chance for selecting competitive low price sports jerseys. “Eagles” will always get you out of depression. site:www.nfljerseyonline.com

  • http://www.baileybootsaleuk.com ugg1991

    Welcome to our ugg boots uk store
    crafts and are therefore comfortable. Putting on a jersey of your favorite team will make

  • http://www.bootsaleonlineuk.com Your Name

    Ugg Classic Short Boots are UGG Australia’s original heritage styles. Ugg Classic Tall will keep yourDiscount Uggboots cheap feet dry and the ultimate comfortable.

  • http://www.bootsaleonlineuk.com guu123

    Ugg Classic Short Boots are UGG Australia’s original heritage styles. Ugg Classic Tall will keep yourDiscount Uggboots cheap

Previous Posts

Vote now in the (delayed slightly) Brass Crescent Awards!
Voting in this year's Brass Crescent Awards is now underway, after a few months' delay. Here's the explanation from the official site: We would like to sincerely apologize for the delay in this year's voting. The reason for the delay was that we did not have sufficient blogsphere nominations as w

posted 10:30:42pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Midamar halal beef - charged with fraud
This is disturbing news - the company Midamar, well known for its halal meat products, has been charged with fraud for falsely advertising its beef as halal to Muslims: The indictment said the companies told customers its cattle were slaughtered by hand by specially trained Muslim slaughtermen w

posted 10:45:40pm Dec. 15, 2014 | read full post »

men should accept blame; women should assert agency
The following rant was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, and I have her permission to reproduce it in its entirety. Systems of patriarchy are sometimes so entrenched, we just accept them as part of normal daily interactions. Popular discourse often maintains that it's men who do such and s

posted 10:56:12pm Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »

My first day of wearing rida to school
Zainab Jamali is a teenaged Muslim American girl in Los Angeles. As a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community, she recently took her misaq (an oath marking the symbolic pas

posted 10:08:13am Nov. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Muslims en masse for Modi at Madison Square
Newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to a huge crowd of Indian expats in New York City on Monday night, outlining his vision of India's future and mak

posted 4:29:29pm Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.