Senate Unanimously Confirms Controversial Mining Pick


The Senate on Friday unanimously confirmed the nomination of Joseph Pizarchik to serve as Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. As we recently reported, Pizarchik is a controversial figure whose nomination was protested by many coal-field activists in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Pizarchik has served as the director of Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Mining and Reclamation since 2002, where he has overseen mining permits and the enforcement of environmental rules related to mining and waste disposal. Residents of Pennsylvania mining areas say that he was too cozy with the coal industry and did not enforce existing environmental laws. Multiple senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee expressed concerns about his record in his confirmation hearing in August.

One mystery senator placed an anonymous hold on the nomination, and two—Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—voted against him in committee. But apparently the hold was removed earlier this week, allowing a voice vote to go forward Friday afternoon. Mother Jones is still trying to get comment from Menendez and Sanders about whether they did, in fact, change their minds about the nomination.

 

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.