Senate committee approves Pizarchik for U.S. mining post

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WASHINGTON -- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted this morning to confirm Pennsylvania's controversial mining director as the director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Joseph Pizarchik's nomination passed by a unanimous voice vote of 12 senators on the committee this morning, though Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., noted that Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who were not in attendance, objected to the nomination.

Mr. Pizarchik was assailed by environmental groups for his record in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, where he has served as the director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation.

The groups said Mr. Pizarchik has consistently sided with the coal industry over environmental interests, and Mr. Bingaman said he had received hundreds of e-mails and letters concerning the nomination -- most of which attacked Mr. Pizarchik.

Mr. Bingaman said he felt that those concerns were addressed at Mr. Pizarchik's confirmation hearing in August, as well as in follow-up correspondence to the committee. The chairman acknowledged there were concerns about the nomination, but in his mind, they were outweighed by the support of President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

"I'm prepared to give Mr. Pizarchik the benefit of the doubt," Mr. Bingaman said.

The nomination now goes to the full Senate for approval.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Daniel Malloy can be reached at dmalloy@post-gazette.com or 202-445-9980. Follow him on Twitter at PG_in_DC.


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