Whitesburg KY

Change at OSM

There are good outside candidates who would bring a real change in leadership to the federal Office of Surface Mining. Why, then, does the change advocate who now occupies the White House contemplate promoting Acting OSM Director Glenda Owens?

As Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. pointed out over the weekend, Ms. Owens, while with OSM, “has defended proposed cuts in spending on abandoned mine cleanups, been involved in working to streamline mountaintop removal permits, helped delay improvements in West Virginia’s abandoned mine reclamation program and harshly attacked federal court rulings that would have limited valley fills.”

The names of two other candidates have been suggested by stripmine control advocates and environmental groups in Kentucky and West Virginia: Lexington attorney Joe Childers and West Virginia University law professor Pat McGinley. Either would be a good choice, although we are especially persuaded by the decades of legal work with which Mr. Childers has made such a difference in the coalfields.

What the agency doesn’t need is a longtime bureaucrat with no obvious record of strong advocacy for federal reclamation and enforcement, as originally conceived by those who passed the federal laws that for so long have been weakly applied.

What should be avoided is an “insider” appointment that would satisfy the coal industry and disappoint the people who have to live with scalped mountains and polluted streams throughout the Central Appalachian strip-mine region.

What’s needed is change that strip mining’s victims can believe in.

— The Courier-Journal, Louisville

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