The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5237,

Surface Mining Agency's New Structure Must Usher in New Era of Responsibility

Agency’s Bureaucratic Location Less Important than Its Protection of American People


Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is planning to announce that the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement will be folded into another Department of Interior subdivision, the Bureau of Land Management.

The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), created in 1977 when Congress realized the devastation of surface coal mining, exists "to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations."

The following is a statement from Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern:

"For many years, despite its very reason for being, the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement OSMRE has been more of a coal industry lapdog than a watchdog, and that's continued during this administration under Director Pizarchik.

"Sometimes a reorganization and a shake-up can help, but unless the agency and its leadership have the political will and resolve to do their job and work for the citizens of America as opposed to the corporations, it doesn't really matter what bureaucratic box you stick them in.

"We hope that whatever the new structure, the promises that were made by the law this agency is charged with enforcing to the people of Appalachia so long ago-- that their communities will be protected -- will finally mean something."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.