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New MMS Director Hails from Capitol Hill

June 29, 2009
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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Thursday appointed Liz Birnbaum, an attorney with experience in energy and environmental policy, as director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

She will succeed Walter Cruickshank, who has served as acting MMS director for the past six months (see NGI, Jan. 26). With more than 20 years at the agency, he was seen as next in line for the directorship. Prior to being tapped as acting director, Cruickshank was deputy director -- a post he has held since 2002. Interior spokesman Frank Quimby said he did not know if Cruickshank would return to his prior position or if Birnbaum would appoint her own deputy director.

Her appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Quimby was uncertain when Birnbaum would take over at MMS.

Since 2007 Birnbaum has been staff director of the House Administration Committee, which manages the legislative branch agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office. From 2001 to 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.

Birnbaum worked at Interior briefly, between 2000 and 2001, as associate solicitor for Minerals Resources, supervising and managing a staff of attorneys that provided legal advice on issues for the MMS, Bureau of Land Management and Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation. She also was special assistant to the Interior solicitor between 1999 and 2000. Birnbaum received her law degree from Harvard University and her undergraduate degree from Brown University.

The MMS collects and disburses more than $13 billion each year in revenues from the development of energy resources on the federal Outer Continental Shelf. The agency is second only to the Internal Revenue Service in its collection of revenues for the federal government.

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