Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey will serve as acting director of the troubled Minerals Management Service (MMS), replacing Liz Birnbaum who either resigned on her own Thursday or was pushed out in the wake of the crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

Birnbaum’s departure came as President Obama said the MMS, the federal agency charged with inspecting oil and natural gas rigs and platforms in the offshore, has had a “cozy and corrupt relationship” with the oil and gas industry that lead to “little or no regulation” in the offshore. Birnbaum became a likely target.

“Bob Abbey’s recent leadership on onshore energy reforms is exactly the kind of experience we need as we continue to reform and begin to restructure MMS. I appreciate [his] willingness to help tackle this crisis in the Gulf,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. He will remain BLM director during this period of restructuring MMS but will turn over his daily duties to Deputy Director Mike Poole.

Salazar has signed a secretarial order that will lead to splitting the beleaguered MMS into three separate entities to avoid future conflicts of interest between the agency and oil and gas producers. The three agencies will be the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (see Daily GPI, May 21). The three bureaus will replace the MMS, he said.

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