OSMRE’s ‘intrepid’ — and private — coalfield tour

February 15, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


If you follow the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Web site, you may have noticed a half-dozen or more new entries under the “News and Stories” section.

OSMRE staff have been busy posted photos and captions from agency Director Joe Pizarchik’s late January tour of the West Virginia coalfields.

There are photos like the one above (which somebody at OSMRE gave a file name “Intrepid OSM Explorers”) showing Pizarchik, third from the left, and other officials who went on a helicopter tour of mountaintop removal mining sites.  Apparently, one aircraft wasn’t enough for all the folks who went along. One of the captions says the aerial photos were “taken from the helicopter that trailed Director Pizarchik’s.”

And there are photos of  active mining sites like this one:


And of reclaimed sites like this one:


They also posted this interesting shot of a valley fill:


And this shot of what OSMRE said was a “reclaimed valley fill”:


The OSMRE Web site items include one called “Getting to Know Joe” where the agency posted a very partial transcript of an interview Pizarchik did with the media. If you want to listen to an entire such interview, visit my previous post, OSMRE’s Joe Pizarchik speaks.

They also posted a bunch of photos of Pizarchik’s meetings with local WVDEP officials and of his discussions with coalfield residents both at a local hotel conference room and out in the community.

Oddly enough, OSMRE hasn’t posted any photos or mention that Pizarchik also had dinner with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and met with the coal industry. We only know that because I got a copy of the itinerary for Pizarchik’s visit — only after filing a formal Freedom of Information Act request for that document. Why wouldn’t OSMRE include that in its Web site “News and Stories” section? I don’t know … it seems to me that there’s nothing with Pizarchik meeting with the industry as long as he’s talking to citizen groups too.

But keep in mind … Interior Department officials specifically forbid any news reporters from taking part in any of the scheduled meetings that were part of portion Pizarchik’s trip, and they strongly “encouraged” citizen groups and the industry to not talk about what happened. So, the general public can’t find out what was said to Pizarchik or how he responded.

We’ll just have to be satisfied with these lovely photos of our intrepid OSMRE director…

11 Responses to “OSMRE’s ‘intrepid’ — and private — coalfield tour”

  1. rhmooney3 says:


    Thanks for doing a FOIA to get the itineray — I’m jealous since OSM has yet responded to FOIAs that I filed months ago.

    Those are empty photos since where those were taken is not included nor is there substances about what was discussed with whom.

    I continue to believe that Joe Pizarchik can and will be a good OSM director, but his first 100 days are done as of today and the only thing to see is some photos.

    From: Robert Mooney
    Sent: Fri 2/12/10
    To: Joe Pizarchik

    (No reply sought)


    Being sworn in on November 6, makes February 15th your initial 100 days.

    What are the results so far?

    “Rumor has it that there’s a new director” is what a 30-year-plus OSM employee told me yesterday.

    Needless to say, I’m in touch with many in OSM that I had worked with…although not so many this past week.

    What direction/guidance have you provided within and without of his agency?

    You have extreme skill, knowledge and abilities to be an OSMRE director — Wahlquist, Jarrett and Uram had those too. (I like you, but I aslo liked each of those others — to varying degrees, on a personal level.)

    They help to create the shambles that you have before you.

    A prime example: The still conditionally approved (1982) alternative bonding system of the Ohio State regulatory program, on which, a 733 Action issued in 2005 — almost FIVE YEARS AGO — remains outstanding too.

    Continued best wishes…and much good luck to you.


  2. wv voice of reason says:

    I especially liked this caption: “A newly reclaimed site which features a tree topped peak, which aids in seeding the elevations below. It is believed leaving trees behind speeds the reforestation effort and aids in mitigating erosion below.”
    No mention of what exactly the seed will germinate in since the topsoil is long gone.

  3. Vernon says:

    I also noticed on that photo that the small stand of trees they spared is like an island separated from the rest of the forest, an example of fragmentation. By leaving a token peak untouched, the company can technically say they’re not doing MTR.

  4. Shelby says:

    Are cows smarter than people ? On a reclaimed mining site in southern Ohio,a farmer said the cows refused to eat the grass seeded on the site. They knew the grasses grew out of harsh chemicals left behind (arsenic,selenium, sulpher, etc)

  5. Monty says:

    I’d still like to know what this little jaunt cost us, the taxpayers, when he could have seen nicer pictures from the comfort of his DC office while browsing on his computer.

  6. rhmooney3 says:


    Clarifications: I understand that the itinerary was provided to you within a day or two of your request — the FOIA wasn’t necessary. Also: That you were offered a time to meet with OSM Director Pizarchik during the trip, but you were not available to do so.

  7. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Bob Mooney,

    It’s nice that your friends in OSM are using you to carry their water, selectively releasing their version of the story … In the future, perhaps you would provide the names of the sources of your information … and make clear to everyone that you formerly worked for OSMRE and have personal relationships with folks inside the agency that might color your comments here …

    But to answer your questions:

    1. I requested a copy of the itinerary at the beginning of the trip, so that I could simply show up at the events and try to cover them. I asked for it on Jan. 19, and was told by Peter Mali, an OSMRE spokesman, that the agency would not release the itinerary. I then filed a FOIA by invoking FOIA in a follow-up email request directed to Peter. The information was provided to me by an OSMRE FOIA officer, Dawn Boswell, on Jan. 28 — long after the events were over and too late for me to try to cover them.

    2. As soon as I was aware of this trip, I requested an interview with Pizarchik during his visit. On Jan. 19, the same day he refused to give me the itinerary, Peter Mali summoned me to the OSMRE office in Charleston for a meeting with Pizarchik at 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22.

    I was unable to make that time because of a family commitment. I requested another time, and told them I would be happy to work with them to set up some other interview time.

    Later I received this e-mail message from Christopher Holmes, another OSMRE spokesman:

    “Director Pizarchik certainly understands your need to put your family first, as he believes that’s everyone’s first priority. However, because we have made a commitment to another group at 9 a.m., we can’t get together with you then. There is a possibility Joe will be available in the afternoon. We can’t be more specific with the time, because the group we are meeting with has not told us the location we’re traveling to, nor the time involved, but they did tell us they would like to return to Charleston in late afternoon before nightfall.
    So, would it be possible to give you a call Friday afternoon if or when we are finished with that group?”

    To complete the circle, I never heard back from OSMRE, and no interview time was arranged.


  8. rhmooney3 says:


    Thank you for the clarification; I’m carrying my own water these days — no one is paying me or telling me what to do.

    Yes, I did work for OSM (1978-1995) as is clearly shown by the website link provided with all my postings — http://tinyurl.com/rhmooney

    OSM still has a long ways to go to fulfill its responsibilities and, I’m sure, they would prefer to get less help from me than I’m providing.

  9. vnxq809 says:


    Just curious – Do you include the names of your sources when compiling your stories as you have asked Bob Mooney to do?


  10. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Most frequently, yes. You’ll not find a whole lot of “anonymous sources” stuff in my reporting over the years or now. I won’t say that I “never” do it, because that’s not true, and saying always and never is a bad thing to do.

    I don’t mean to be too hard on Bob Mooney … he’s made great contributions to this blog. I just would want him to be cautious in passing on stuff that he’s “heard” from sources within OSMRE (where he formally worked) without letting readers know where the information is coming from.


  11. Vnxq809 says:


    That’s fair enough. I just felt your response to Mr. Mooney’s post, @ best, was very condescending.


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