Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kentucky, West Virginia each have a favorite candidate to lead federal strip-mine office

With the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers apparently at odds over regulating mountaintop removal, attention has turned to the leadership of agency that is supposed to be at the forefront of regulating strip mining for coal: the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, in the Department of the Interior.

The two states with the most at stake, West Virginia and Kentucky, seem to have their favorite candidates: West Virginia University law professor Patrick McGinley and Lexington lawyer Joe Childers. Childers was endorsed for the job yesterday by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, "in an interesting move," reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette in his Coal Tattoo blog.

Ward says groups opposing mountaintiop removal have focused on using the Clean Water Act, administered by EPA, rather than the Interior agency. "OSM has never lived up to its broad mandate to protect coalfield communities and the environment," he explains. "Just read this report by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or this blueprint for fixing OSM written by longtime Kentucky environmental lawyer Tom FitzGerald," of the Kentucky Resources Council. "A strong OSM could go a long way to helping with the myriad of problems facing citizens in coalfield communities." (Read more)

UPDATE, April 2: The war of the Big Sandy continues, as Gazette editorial page endorses McGinley.

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