Despite continued opposition from coalfield citizen groups, a U.S. Senate panel this morning advanced President Obama’s nomination of Joe Pizarchik to run the federal Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
Just two members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont — were recorded as voting against Pizarchik. The nomination now moves to the full Senate.
The vote came just hours after the Citizens Coal Council on Wednesday night filed another formal Notice of Intent to sue over allegations of serious deficiencies in the Pennsylvania strip-mining regulatory program that Pizarchik runs.
This petition, following up on a previous one over Pizarchik’s policies on toxic power plant ash disposal at mine sites, focuses on “chronic violations” of federal historic preservation laws in regards to damage from mining.
According to a Citizens’ Coal Council press release:
Pennsylvania is one of the original thirteen states with a vast array of unique national historic properties, including many with existing structures in Western Pennsylvania dating from the times of the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War periods, and including existing historic cultural landscapes and traditional cultural properties. Pennsylvania also has a documented prehistoric human occupation dating back to over 16,000 years before the present era.
Aimee Erickson, Coordinator of the Citizens Coal Council, explained:
Prominent among the historic properties of Pennsylvania and its people are the historic farms and homes, historic drinking water and livestock watering sources and delivery systems — including the aquifers, springs and surface waters.
I’ve posted the latest Notice of Intent here. Like the previous one, it seeks to force Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to have OSMRE take over enforcement of strip-mining laws in Pennsylvania because of Pizarchik’s failure to do so.
Among other things, the notice alleges that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has not protected historic resources in that state from damage from longwall mining. It cites some of the fine work by my buddy Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on this issue, here, here and here.