Erin Savage — Central Appalachian Program Manager, 206-769-8286, erin [at] appvoices.org
Davie Ransdell — Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, 502-229-1122, davie.ransdell [at] gmail.com
The White House today announced the nomination of J. Steven Gardner for Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the federal agency charged with mitigating the impacts of mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining on Appalachian communities and the environment.
Gardner has worked in the coal industry for more than 40 years. Since 1983, he has served as the president and CEO of ECSI, LLC based in Lexington, Ky. Gardner is an ardent coal industry advocate who has never had a role in a regulatory agency. He has repeatedly defended the practices of mountaintop removal mining and dumping mining waste into streams. He is best known for his attacks on OSMRE after the agency did not renew his contract as a consultant on the Stream Protection Rule.
Coal companies continue to apply for new mining permits and operate surface coal mines in Central Appalachia. OSMRE must oversee these activities and ensure that damage to communities and the environment is minimized. But the future of mining in the region is finite. Coal production in Central Appalachia has declined dramatically and OSMRE will devote more and more of its resources to legacy mining issues.
Considering these ongoing trends, it is imperative for the next director to enter the job with the long-term interests of coal communities in mind — not the industry’s short-term profit motives, which leave lasting scars. Gardner is just the latest Trump appointee who has been nominated to run a federal agency he once fought.
Statement from Central Appalachian Program Manager Erin Savage:
“For better or worse, the OSMRE will play a critical role in shaping Central Appalachia’s economic future. Mine reclamation, reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land Fund, bonding reform and the strict enforcement of environmental laws are crucial tasks in the coming years. Throughout his career, Steven Gardner has shown he will always take the side of the coal industry. He is not the director Appalachian communities need to protect and advance their future.”
Statement of Davie Ransdell, member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and former supervisor at Kentucky Division of Mine Permits.
“Steve Gardner is certainly a well-established mining engineer. Unfortunately, his company and his own personal bias are coal-industry centric. Because of industry downturns, he has reluctantly diversified but maintains a focus on promoting coal mining despite the fact that coal is becoming less and less competitive. How can someone with his focus on defending the industry at all costs be the right choice for the federal agency in charge of overseeing that industry.”