Director of MMS Royalty Program Resigns

The director of the Minerals Management Service's royalty-in-kind program resigned today, drawing the ire of a House committee chairman investigating the Interior Department.

Greg Smith's last day will be Friday -- a fact that drew the ire of Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who has introduced legislation to dramatically curtail the royalty-in-kind program.

Smith's is the latest high-profile departure from Interior, following MMS Director Johnnie Burton and former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald.

The Justice Department has reportedly begun an investigation into the royalty program, and the resignation means Smith will not be called to testify before Congress, Rahall said during a hearing today.

"It appears this administration uses retirement like some perverse witness-protection program," Rahall said. "Get them out of the spotlight and off the list of in-the-know folks who could provide damaging evidence.

"Perhaps what they are really doing is building a Wall of Shame at the Interior Department," he added. "Whenever I call a hearing, the Interior officials involved are suddenly gone. We never even get a chance to have them appear before the committee, because they are retiring or resigning."

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