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Trump nominee for mine regulator withdraws
President Trump's nominee to lead a mining industry regulator withdrew his name from consideration Thursday, citing frustration over the ethics review process.
J. Steven Gardner, a coal industry consultant, said in a statement that he was "saddened by the necessity" of his withdrawal from consideration to lead the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).
"The decision was very difficult for me and comes after almost a year of back and forth with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) over the conditions for an Ethics Agreement," Gardner said.
"Now, I have reached the point that the uncertainty of when confirmation would actually take place, numerous reversals by OGE of conditions, unknown financial implications, and unknown final conditions have led me to make the decision to withdraw."
Trump nominated Gardner, who lives in Kentucky, in October 2017. He is an unabashed supporter of the coal industry and outspoken opponent of many Obama administration regulations, like OSMRE's notable Stream Protection Rule that sought to cut down on pollution from mountaintop removal mining.
His coal support made him a highly controversial nominee among environmentalists and Democrats.
"Steven Gardner had no reason being nominated to direct the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) in the first place," Bill Price, Appalachian organizing manager for the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
"He's a lifelong servant of the coal industry who consistently puts the profits of his bosses above the health and safety of coal workers, and the enforcement of our clean air and water laws."
OSMRE oversees standards for surface mining, including mountaintop removal. It is also responsible for enforcing mining companies' duties to clean up and restore mines to an acceptable condition after they are done mining.
The agency is being led on an interim basis by Glenda Owens, a career official.