Coal Age

DEC 2018

Coal Age Magazine - For more than 100 years, Coal Age has been the magazine that readers can trust for guidance and insight on this important industry.

Issue link: https://coal.epubxp.com/i/1066352

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 11 of 59

10 www.coalage.com December 2018 news continued Why I Withdrew My Nomination to be Director of OSM Over one and a half years ago I was approached about becoming Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). My official nomination was made in October 2017 and I was honored to have an opportunity to serve. There were critics of course who said that someone who had worked with industry was not qualified to run the office charged with enforcement. I am sure you have heard I have withdrawn my name. The process had drug on with no end in sight. The requirements to accept the position kept chang- ing. And each step to find out the latest condition would take weeks. The cost and uncertainty just be- came overwhelming and I decided it was time to get on with life. I appreciated all the congrats and best wish- es from everyone there. So, it is back to work and trying to catch up on some of the lost opportunities from the last year. I have to say I am disappointed. I thought I could make a difference using my experience in mining reclamation, practical environmental stewardship and my working relationship with state governments. I had hoped to be able to meet all my old friends and colleagues in OSM when I officially became Director. I have known and worked with many in OSM over the past 40+ years and have the utmost respect for everyone in OSM, contrary to what has been said by some. I had started this Memo to introduce myself to the OSM staff who did not already know me. After receiving a BS in Agricultural Engi- neering, I worked in East Kentucky where some of the first large scale mountaintop mines were started in the mid-70's. In 1977 I worked for a consulting firm that received the contract to write the first training program for OSM inspectors, "Surface Mining and the Natural Envi- ronment." Moving to Tennessee to work, I got to know a lot of the early OSM personnel in Knoxville. I moved back to Lexington in the 1980's and attended UK to earn an MS in Mining Engineering with an Environ- mental Systems Certificate and began my consulting practice. When the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative began, I was one of the first signers preparing the first permit approved in Kentucky using the Forestry Reclamation Approach. I served on a joint state/industry/citizen Bonding Protocol Work Group at the request of both Kentucky and OSM. I have been honored to call many OSM col- leagues friends over the years and I am confident that those who know me can attest to my character and professionalism in the approach that I would have taken to the job. I was surprised by the attention my nomination and withdrawal drew from media and want to address some of the inaccuracies, in- nuendoes and misconceptions that were circulated. I believe Ian Mac- Dougall's December 12, 2017 Propublica article was the most egre- gious. It is common knowledge I was part of a team of the 7 consulting firms that worked on the Stream Protection Rule (SPR) in 2010. In fact, I was personally recruited by OSM to be part of the team. There were approximately 100 engineers, scientists, attorneys, and economists, plus several professors who worked on the DRAFT EIS and RIA. There were also numerous OSM employees imbedded in the work groups. The DRAFT EIS utilized text from previous EIS documents, as directed by OSM which was always appropriately cited. Because the preliminary results of the EIS/RIA showed the SPR would result in significant mining job losses, OSM managers at the time asked for those results to be altered. I find it interesting that article stated that I personally tried to sabotage the SPR. I take great offense at that characterization. I make no apologies for my role, but I was only one of a larger team that took a stand. My colleagues and I were labeled as "Whistle Blowers" and threatened with severe repercussions because we refused to alter the results of science and engineering-based stud- ies. As a group, we took a stand to protect the honor of our respective professions. The full "Draft Docu- ments" were never made public, just criticized for predicting job losses. I believe that the DOI Inspector General's report in 2013 served as a vindication. I have to say those who criticized the quality of the work were not privy to the full story. It was a Draft document subject to further work and editing, i.e., it was not finished! Many former and current OSM employees who were part of the process defended the original EIS and RIA. Another thing that was not pub- licized is that the contractors were always promised more time and budget to finish the EIS and RIA but were not given that promised opportunity when it was discovered the contractor group as a whole would not alter the results. The new EIS and RIA were completed in 2015 for the 2016 SPR ver- sion. In the Propublica article, John Morgan (who was on both teams, 2010 and 15) was quoted saying that no one had a problem with his work in the early drafts. Mr. Morgan was part of everything that was produced and helped model the job loss numbers. It was Mr. Morgan's firm as part of the later SPR work that inexplicably reversed the pre- dictions of the earlier study. Also, Mr. Morgan stated that he did not see how I could lead an agency I had criticized. My criticisms were of the few people whose actions tried to force the report results to be altered. I know there were many in the agency who did not agree with the actions at that time and who expressed support of my nomination. A more accurate Propublica headline would be, "Nominee Refused to Alter Results of Science and Engineering Study for Politicians." I proudly served as 2015 President of the Society FOR Mining, Met- allurgy and Exploration which is not an "industry group," but a profes- sional society with individual members that includes numerous OSM personnel, as well as scientists, engineers, attorneys, economists, and mining professionals from across many sectors. I believe the mission of OSM is NOT to stop mining, but to work collaboratively with state government partners to insure mining is done responsibly for the com- mon good of the public. I was particularly disappointed by a statement that Former Director Joe Pizarchik made to E&E News on September 11, "Mr. Gardner's decision gives the Trump administration an opportunity to select a director who will work to protect the people of coal country, and not the industry or regulators." I would simply reply that as a licensed Professional Engineer I took an oath to protect the public health, safety and welfare and have dedicated my career to improving the performance of mining for the benefit of society! I live by that code every day with honor and integrity and that is how I intended to manage OSM. Now I am moving on to complete my career to fulfill that personal mission. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in OSM on many more projects in the future. Respectfully, Steve Gardner

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Coal Age - DEC 2018