Whitesburg KY

Another view

During the Bush administration, federal agencies designed to prevent industrial ravages often were handed to agents of polluters.

A classic example was Steven Griles, a coal company lobbyist who was appointed deputy secretary of the Interior. Instead of safeguarding nature, he made it easier for out-of-state corporations to blast off West Virginia mountaintops. Incredibly, his old lobbying firm paid him $568,000 while he was supposed to be a government watchdog. Then he was sent to prison for corruption in the Republican Jack Abramoff scandal. And his lover, who served as his liaison to Abramoff, also went to prison.

Now, under new Democratic President Obama, genuine watchdogs are being considered for U.S. protective agencies. For example, at least two Appalachian lawyers with records of representing coalfield residents reportedly are being evaluated to run the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement.

One is Joe Childers of Lexington, Ky. Another is West Virginia University law professor Pat McGinley.

The Office of Surface Mining is certainly in need of steady hand. Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration, having appointed a real regulator in West Virginian Davitt McAteer at the U.S. Mine Health Safety Administration, chose for OSM someone more pleasing to mine owners: industry lawyer Bob Uram. Under Clinton, surface mining and mountaintop removal began to expand. President Bush went further. OSM became such a mess that nature-lovers scarcely expect any regulation from it. They turn instead to lawsuits or the Environmental Protection Agency for help getting the nation’s protective laws enforced.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has endorsed the Kentucky candidate to lead OSM, citing Childers’s 30 years of work on behalf of coalfield residents.

We urge President Obama and his Interior Department to pick McGinley. He has also spent a career representing coalfield families on issues involving property rights, taxes, water and blasting. McGinley also has an impressive scholarly record in the subject and is a confirmed champion of openness in government. He would bring the perfect background and ethic to the job of protecting the public’s interest.

Both candidates have been endorsed by numerous citizen groups and both s peak well of the other.

OSM has been an ineffectual mess for years. It is welcome news that the Obama administration is considering such worthy candidates for the job. It has been a long time since the important work of government was taken this seriously.

— The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette

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