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Sources familiar with the matter told Fox News that she is not being reassigned and that she is out of government entirely.Her departure came just hours before a news conference where President Obama plans to address the oil spill and announce new safety protocols and an extension of a deepwater drilling moratorium.
Obama and members of Congress have criticized what they call the cozy relationship between regulators and oil companies and have vowed to reform MMS, which both regulates the industry and collects billions in royalties from it.
Birnbaum was scheduled to testify before the House Appropriations Committee Thursday morning about the oil spill but she did not appear. Her deputy, Secretary David Hayes testified in her place alongside Salazar. Rep. Nick Rahal, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Birnbaum's departure "does not address the root problem."
The DOI Inspector General recently found that "between 2002 and 2006, nearly 1/3 of the entire RIK[Royalty-In-Kind*] staff socialized with, and received a wide array of gifts and gratuities from, oil and gas companies with whom RIK was conducting official business." The IG also described a
culture of "ethical failure" and
"substance abuse and
promiscuity" in the RIK office.
The GAO found that in 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008, MMS could not accurately account for the RIK program's costs and benefits. Despite unverifiable statistics about the program's success, and evidence that the RIK program was found at times to lose money, MMS continued to expand the RIK program.
. . .
Even though the operations of the program remain largely opaque, the information available strongly indicates that
RIK exists to benefit the oil and gas industry, to the
detriment of the public.