Coal Tattoo

Obama OSM(RE) nominee punts on mountaintop removal

pizarchik.JPGSo what does President Obama’s nominee to run the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement think about mountaintop removal? If confirmed, how would Joseph G. Pizarchik deal with this huge issue?

Well, anybody who was hoping to gets answers to those questions during today’s U.S. Senate committee confirmation hearing was sadly disappointed. Pizarchik sure didn’t say much, even though he was given three chances by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

During the first round of questions, Menendez asked Pizarchik about mountaintop removal as part of a multi-part question. Pizarchik answered the other parts, but didn’t respond on mountaintop removal. Menendez came back to it during the second round of questions, and asked Pizarchik would he would do as OSMRE director to implement the White House’s announced intention to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal. Pizarchik responded:

If confirmed, I will get involved in that project and learn more about the different perspectives held by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the other stakeholders of interest, the citizens, environmentalists … the state agencies that regulate the actual mining activity that occurs … Getting involved and getting a better handle on the details of that, and how that is actually being implemented, and getting an understanding of the facts would be the first basis to determine what has transpired in the past, has that activity been done in accordance with the law as enacted by Congress and the regulations adopted by the state and federal agencies, and then looking at those facts and deciding what would be the appropriate action to take at that time.

Sen. Menendez knows a dodge when he sees one, so he asked Pizarchik again, and got this response:

Without knowing the nuances and details of that, but if confirmed, I will be working for the president and I will be carrying out the course charted by the administration on that.

UPDATED: 1:15 P.M.:

Pizarchik’s prepared testimony to the committee is available now online here, and you can also watch archived video of the hearing here.

In addition, readers might want to visit the Environmental Integrity Project site for updated information on citizen groups who are opposing Pizarchik’s confirmation, and check out previous Coal Tattoo posts here and here.