Head of Mineral Management Service quits

North Sea Oil Rig

No new oil rigs will be going up, as an off shore drilling moratorium is being declared. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In the wake of the disastrous BP oil spill, there are increasing calls for heads to roll, and one of the first is Elizabeth Birnbaum, or rather S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, head of the Mineral Management Service. The Mineral Management Service, or MMS, part of the Department of the Interior, is the office in charge of off shore drilling.  Whether MMS or British Petroleum is at fault is unknown.  What is clear is that Birnbaum is out of a job, and a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil is going to be in effect.

Mineral Management Services director quits

After the explosion of the oil rig touched off the BP oil leak, it was clear that some accountability was going to be brought to bear on someone. No one needs a loan until payday for an attorney just yet, however.  One of the first casualties in government is the director of the Mineral Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum. According to the New York Times, she was asked by Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, to resign. She announced her resignation on Thursday, May 27.

Moratorium on drilling to begin

It was also announced that President Obama would be declaring a moratorium on off shore drilling. According to the Los Angeles Times, the moratorium will last at least 6 months, and current plans for an offshore drilling rig off the Virginia coast will be scrapped.  Congress has thus far responded that Birnbaum is only the face of a deeply troubled agency.

Perhaps a moratorium is a good thing

While it is certainly true that off shore drilling can offset the need for imports, the need to not irreparably harm the ocean or coastlines is just as vital.  There is a long history of ghastly environmental damage done in the name of extraction for profit (Superfund sites, for instance), that the taxpayers end up paying to clean up, not the companies that did the damage in the first place.  Business is business, but “private business” ceases to even remotely offer a defense when taxpayers have to pick up the check on the mess, when the offending corporate entities have absconded with the profits.

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