Groups against federal mining nominee
Share with others:
Pennsylvania environmental groups have asked the Obama administration to put on hold its nomination of state Department of Environmental Protection mining official Joseph Pizarchik to head the federal Office of Surface Mining.
Mr. Pizarchik's nomination to the Interior Department position is opposed by the coalfield groups because of his involvement in decisions that favor the coal industry in Pennsylvania.
His hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled for today, but the groups want it pushed back to after the August Congressional recess.
"We feel the process is being rushed through and hope we can get this delayed," said Raina Rippel, director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, a multi-state citizens group in Washington, Pa. "The actions Joseph Pizarchik has taken in Pennsylvania have been detrimental to coalfield citizens."
Joining the call to delay the hearing so the groups can provide more input are the Mountain Watershed Association, Citizens Coal Council and the Environmental Integrity Project. The groups have delivered letters to the committee chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., containing 128 signatures of coalfield residents.
Aimee Erickson, of the Citizens Coal Council, said that in 1994 Mr. Pizarchik, then a DEP attorney, was on an ad-hoc committee that wrote amendments to the state mining law that allowed for filling of stream valleys with coal waste, an amendment sought by the mining industry. She said that during his decade at the DEP, where he is currently director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation, he also allowed the controversial practice of dumping coal ash in abandoned mines.
"The scheduling of this quickie hearing allows for no citizen input into the confirmation process," said Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper with the Mountain Watershed Association. "Decisions made by Mr. Pizarchik while he was with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection have had serious negative impacts on the lives of coalfield citizens, and those citizens deserve a chance to participate in the process."
Mr. Pizarchik declined to comment and referred questions to the Interior Department. Kendra Barkoff, press secretary to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, said it is department policy to restrict access to nominees until after their hearing. She defended the nomination.
"After a lifetime dedicated to balanced, innovative natural resource management, Joe Pizarchik is highly qualified to lead an agency that is regularly called to manage contentious issues," Ms. Barkoff said. "He is fair-minded, listens to all perspectives, and has a deep commitment to protecting our nation's lands, waterways and communities, and enforcing our environmental laws."
First Published August 6, 2009 12:00 am