Front Porch Blog

Appalachian Voices Opposes Joe Pizarchik to Head OSMRE

We Will ask the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to Reject his Nomination

Next Tuesday at 2:30 the Senate Energy Committee will consider the nominiation of Joe Pizarchik to head the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement.

Appalachian Voices believes that Joseph Pizarchik is the wrong individual to direct the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). His record in Pennsylvania gives us grave concerns about his ability and willingness to protect the communities and natural resources in the coal-bearing regions of our country. In particular, we have doubts about his ability to protect Appalachia’s dwindling water resources from mountaintop removal mining operations which are devastating our mountains and headwaters.

With Mr. Pizarchik as legal council to Pennsylvania’s mining program, and then Director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), citizens have suffered from a bureaucratic indifference toward meeting the purposes of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

Three foundational purposes behind the passage of SMCRA in 1977 were to “establish a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations” to “assure the rights of landowners” and “protect the environment.”

Mr. Pizarchik has exhibited a bureaucratic indifference which has led to this distortion of the original intent of the law.

1. A 2007 independent review of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s own monitoring data has revealed that 10 of 15 mine sites where coal ash has been “beneficially used” are contaminating surface and groundwater.

2. In a consensus report, National Research Council scientists concluded that Mr. Pizarchik’s program of alleged “beneficial use” of coal ash in mines did not use safeguards needed for this practice.

3. A federal court ruled Mr. Pizarchik’s bonding program failed SMCRA’s bonding requirements to prevent water pollution.

4. Mr. Pizarchik attempted to prevent citizens from obtaining probative information under the Freedom of Information Act.

5. Mr. Pizarchik was involved in amending regulations under Pennsylvania’s Coal Refuse Disposal Control Act to allow variances to fill valleys with coal processing waste which have obliterated dozens of miles of Pennsylvania streams

6. Mr. Pizarchik’s long wall mining policy has devastated homes, destroyed streams and water supplies and violated the rights of landowners.

For the reasons stated above, we respectfully ask that the OSMRE be led by someone who will break the mold of indifference to landowner rights and environmental damage and “protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations.” Mr. Pizarchik is not the appropriate choice for the position, and we ask the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to reject his nomination.





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