S. Elizabeth Birnbaum

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S. Elizabeth Birnbaum
Elizabeth Birnbaum official portrait.jpg
Director of US Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service
In office
July 15, 2009 – May 27, 2010
Preceded by Walter Cruickshank
Succeeded by Michael R. Bromwich
Personal details
Born Susan Elizabeth Birnbaum

Susan Elizabeth "Liz" Birnbaum served as Director of the Minerals Management Service in the United States from July 15, 2009 to May 27, 2010. Birnbaum was in charge of administering "programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy [...] and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas, as well as the collection and distribution of revenues for minerals developed on federal and American Indian lands."[1]


Early career and education[edit]

From 1987 to 1991 Birnbaum was counsel for the Water Resources Program of the National Wildlife Federation, where she litigated on behalf of that organization in federal courts.[2][3] From 1991 to 1999 she was counsel to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she handled legislative and oversight activities for the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and electric power marketing administrations.[4] At the Department of the Interior, Birnbaum was Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources from 2000 to 2001, supervising and managing a staff of attorneys that provided legal advice, developed regulations and conducted litigation on minerals issues for the Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation.[5] In addition, she was a special assistant to the Interior Solicitor, from 1999 to 2000, overseeing legal policy on a range of natural resource issues, including mining law, public land management and hydropower licensing.[6][7][8] From 2001–2007, 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.[9][10][11][12] In that role, she testified regularly to Congress regarding river conservation issues [13] [14] .[15]

Before her appointment to the Minerals Management Service, Birnbaum was staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw strategy development, budget management and staff activities for the committee that manages legislative branch agencies.[16][17]

Birnbaum received her Juris Doctor from Harvard University in 1984 and her A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 1979. She was Editor in Chief of the Harvard Environmental Law Review, Volume 8.

Minerals Management Services[edit]

As MMS Director, Birnbaum administered programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, ocean current energy, and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nation's Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas.


On May 27, 2010, Birnbaum resigned her position. She resigned "on her own terms and on her own volition," according to Ken Salazar, the United States Secretary of the Interior. The resignation came during the controversial Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Salazar's subsequent announcement that the Minerals Management Service would be reorganized.[18] She was replaced by Michael Bromwich, a litigation attorney and former federal prosecutor with a history of overseeing troubled federal agencies.

Post-MMS career[edit]

Since January 1, 2011, Birnbaum has operated an environmental consulting firm, SEB Strategies, LLC.[19]

On April 17, 2014, Birnbaum co-authored an opinion editorial in The New York Times with Jacqueline Savitz titled “The Deepwater Horizon Threat”.[20] Shortly after, she was interviewed by journalist Amy Goodman on the Democracy Now! news hour.[21]

Volunteer work[edit]

Birnbaum has been an officer and member of numerous boards and commissions, including the National Capital Section of the American Water Resources Association; Arlington County Environment and Energy Conservation Commission, and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section of the District of Columbia Bar.

She currently (2014) serves as co-chair of the Arlington County and City of Alexandria Joint Task Force to restore Four Mile Run.[22]


  1. ^ Archived version of S. Elizabeth Birnbaum biography Minerals Management Service website (July 2010)
  2. ^ "National Wildlife Federation v. FERC, 912 F.2d 1471 (D.C. Cir. 1990)". Ftp.resource.org. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Salt Lake City v. Western Area Power Administration, 926 F.2d 974 (10th Cir. 1991)". Ftp.resource.org. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ Kaplan, Jonathan E. (October 2, 2007). ""Rep. George Miller says he is just 'Hamburger Helper'" The Hill by Jonathan E Kaplan 10/02/07". Img.thehill.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Use of Mining Claims for Purposes Ancillary to Mineral Extraction, Solicitor's Opinion Jan 18, 2001" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary, Final Report and Recommendations of the Working Group on the Endangered Species Act and Indian Water Rights, Federal Register, July 6, 2000" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ ""Whether Public Lands Withdrawn by Executive Orders 6910 and 6964 or Established as Grazing Districts are 'Reservations' within the Meaning of Section 4(e) of the Federal Power Act" Solicitor's Opinion Jan. 19, 2001" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  8. ^ ""Regulation of Hardrock Mining" Solicitor's Opinion Dec. 27, 1999" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  9. ^ "American Rivers Annual Report 2003" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ "American Rivers Annual Report 2004" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  11. ^ "American Rivers Annual Report 2005" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  12. ^ "American Rivers Annual Report 2006" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ "H.R. 2202 and H.R. 3223 Legislative Hearing before the Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Resources, 107th Congress 2nd Session June 5, 2002" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Water Symposium: Symposium before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate 109th Congress, 1st Session, April 5, 2005" (PDF). Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  15. ^ Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, hearings where S. Elizabeth Birnbaum testified, Electricity Generation and Transmission Hydroelectric Relicensing Procedures July 19, 2001
  16. ^ Ifill, Gwen. ""House Committee Chairmen, Ranking Members and Committee Staff Directors" National Journal June 17, 2009". Nationaljournal.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Thanks and Farewell to Liz Birnbaum 155 Congressional Record H8069". Gpo.gov. July 14, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  18. ^ “MMS Director's Game of Telephone Ends in Firing” The New York Times by Mike Soraghan of Greenwire May 28, 2010
  19. ^ http://www.sebstrategies.com
  20. ^ “The Deepwater Horizon Threat” The New York Times April 17, 2014
  21. ^ "4 Years After BP Disaster, Ousted Drilling Chief Warns U.S. at Risk of Another Oil Spill" April 21, 2014
  22. ^ http://www.novaregion.org/index.aspx?NID=216