Trump nominates mining engineer to be top federal coal mine regulator

Trump nominates mining engineer to be top federal coal mine regulator

President Trump has nominated a coal industry advocate and engineer to be the nation’s top mining regulator.

The White House on Thursday announced the nomination of J. Steven Gardner, the president of engineering firm ECSI, LLC, to be the director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). The office is the Interior Department’s top regulator of the coal mining industry.

Gardner has been at ESCI, a Lexington, Ky.-based firm, since 1983 and was a frequent critic of environmental rules during the Obama administration, including those from the OSM.

In a February op-ed in the Lexington Herald Leader, Gardner celebrated the repeal of an OSM rule protecting streams from coal mining waste, calling the regulation “simply a way to stop coal mining, not only surface mining but underground mining.”

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Congress repealed the stream protection rule after Trump took office. The OSM has since adopted the administration’s deregulatory approach for the energy industry, including ending an Obama administration initiative to research the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.

“My whole life, I have been involved with mining on multiple levels, and I understand the importance of these issues to the communities we serve,” Gardner said in Interior Department statement Thursday.

“I pledge to work every day on behalf of the men and women across this country who look to the OSM office as a partner in bettering life for all people on mining lands.”

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Dems seek answers on Trump climate policies | Trump officials want changes to forest management after wildfires | UN environment chief resigns Trump officials cite California fires in renewing call for forest logging policies Overnight Energy: EPA official steps down after indictment on ethics charges | Sanders to hold town hall on climate | Zinke slams 'environmental radicals' for fires MORE praised the nomination, calling Gardner “an unbelievable asset to coal country and the entire team at the Department of the Interior.”

The nomination will be controversial with environmentalists, however. When Gardner’s name was floated for the position in August, the Sierra Club called him a “horrible choice. “

“Gardner has shown time and again that he will try and fight anything that gets in the way of profits for coal executives — even if it means sacrificing the health of the families and communities in Kentucky,” said Tom Morris, the chair of the Cumberland, Ky., chapter of the Sierra Club.