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For Immediate Release, September 11, 2009

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681

Pizarchik Nomination as Director of Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
Opposed by Center for Biological Diversity

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The Center for Biological Diversity opposes the nomination of Joseph Pizarchik as director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement because of his dismal environmental record. As director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Mr. Pizarchik consistently made decisions that benefited industry at the expense of the environment and communities living in mining areas.

Mr. Pizarchik’s environmental record includes advocating for unsafe disposal of toxic coal ash, disregarding the scientific evidence concerning coal-ash pollution, weakening stream buffer-zone rules, promoting valley fills, and downplaying the devastation caused by long-wall mining. Moreover, his agency has failed to meet legal requirements to prevent water pollution and has attempted to block citizens from obtaining information under public record laws.

In 2001, Mr. Pizarchik supervised the drafting of regulations that weakened stream buffer-zone rules to allow the filling of stream valleys in Pennsylvania. In spite of science demonstrating the hazards of improper coal-ash disposal, Mr. Pizarchik’s agency has allowed waste to be buried in unlined pits and old mines without regulatory safeguards. His coal-ash mine-fill program was found deficient by the Interior Board of Land Appeals.

 “Given the environmental crisis our country faces, we can’t afford to have someone in this position with a record of consistently downplaying the devastating effects of coal mining and coal ash on the environment,” said Tierra Curry, biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote on Pizarchik's confirmation early next week.

The Center also opposes the re-appointment of Glenda Owens as deputy Office of Surface Mining director. Ms. Owens was first named to that post by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and is a staunch defender of mountaintop-removal coal mining.  

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