Coal Tattoo

KFTC continues to push Childers for OSM(RE) post

The group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is continuing its push to convince President Barack Obama to nominate Lexington, Ky., lawyer Joe Childers to be director of the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Someone passed on to me an e-mail message that KFTC is sending to its members and supporters today, urging them to call the Interior Department about this issue. Here’s what KFTC is asking members to say:

I urge the administration to nominate a new director of the Office of Surface Mining who is not from the coal industry or OSM.  We desperately need someone who will fix this troubled agency and see that the surface mining laws are fully and fairly enforced. Joe Childers of Kentucky would be a good choice.

The KFTC e-mail message doesn’t mention another non-OSMRE and non-industry candidate, West Virginia University law professor Pat McGinley (who, I understand, has asked his supporters not to call or e-mail the Interior Department, for fear that doing so will hurt more than it will help at this point).

All of this comes as the Obama administration is keeping very quiet about reports that acting OSMRE Director Glenda Owens has already been offered the post, and that Interior officials may be trying to find a way to back out of that offer. And, the controversy continues after House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall last week publicly urged Obama to pick a strong leader for this troubled agency.

At the same time, this week another possible — if unlikely — choice emerged: Former West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer. I’m told some coal industry folks were putting Timmermeyer’s name forward, and tried unsuccessfully to get support for her from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. Since leaving DEP last July, Timmermeyer registered as a lobbyist here in West Virginia. But the state Ethics Commission listed no clients for her during the recently completed legislative session.

Timmermeyer’s name has sent quite a buzz flying around the environmental community in West Virginia, and citizen activists are none to happy that she might even be considered for the post.  And one has to wonder what President Obama, the former law professor, woudl think of Timmermeyer’s student law review article, “So You Want to Ban Mountaintop Mining? You May Have to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.” In the article, Timmermeyer argues that if regulators try to stop mountaintop removal,  it would constitute a “taking” of private property and the government would have to compensate mineral owners.

The question I really have at this point is how long will Obama wait to put someone new in charge at OSMRE? The last time a Democrat took over the White House, Bill Clinton didn’t nominate an OSMRE director until 11 months into his term. His pick, industry lawyer Bob Uram, wasn’t sworn in until March 11, 1994 — more than a year after Clinton took office.

And as for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, Clinton didn’t nominate Davitt McAteer to run that agency until nine months into his term. McAteer wasn’t sworn in until February 1994.

How long will coalfield citizens, coal miners and the coal industry wait this time?