27 May 2010

Rahall in Thick of Gulf Oil Spill Fray (Updated)

With The Associated Press reporting on the apparent forced resignation of S. Elizabeth Birnbaum as director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service, those reacting (updated) include U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

Rahall is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. It quizzed Birnbaum and her immediate boss, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, among other witnesses at a Wednesday hearing. C-SPAN has video.

(Update: Rahall told AP that "the departure of Elizabeth Birnbaum from MMS does not address the root problem. She has only been the public face of MMS for 11 months and the most serious allegations occurred prior to her tenure... This might on the surface be a good start but must not be the end game.)

Rahall's committee is conducting a series of hearings as it reviews a spill that AP reports has "has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history."

The committee was scheduled to hear from the heads of both BP America and Transocean Ltd. during a Thursday session.

USA Today reported earlier that Rahall had welcomed the announced departure of the MMS' administrator for offshore drilling programs. It quoted Rahall as saying he hoped it "signaled an understanding that wholesale changes 'will be necessary to fundamentally reform MMS.'"

AP also reported that Rahall had offered initial praise for Salazar's proposal to abolish the MMS as "a bold initiative to shake up a badly troubled agency by separating its three basic missions."

And USA Today is among those quoting Rahall as he and "other members of Congress have voiced concern about the government's response to the spill."

Rahall also appeared on the MSNBC program Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire recently caught a decidedly different response from Rahall to a Salazar comment regarding the spill.

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