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The White House has named the two men who will be in charge of both the safety of coal miners and the environmental protection of coal mining regions. President Obama has nominated Joseph Main to serve as assistant secretary of labor in charge of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and Joseph Pizarchik to be director of the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining. (Press releases from the White House and Interior Department are here.)
Joe Main (above) makes most coal miners, safety advocates and the United Mine Workers of America happy. Main began working in the mines in 1967 in Pennsylvania. He became a mine safety advocate and specialist, eventually heading the UMWA safety office. “It’s going to be frustrating having somebody with an agenda that is pro union,” said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. “We’re not looking forward to it.”
Pizarchik is a more neutral choice. The White House passed over those with a history of fighting coal strip mining, such as Kentucky attorney Joey Childers, to pick the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mining and Reclamation. Those fighting mountaintop removal mining “worry that as a career government bureaucrat, Pizarchik might not push for an outright ban on the practice,” according to one news report. There was an effort over the weekend by environmental groups to block Pizarchik’s nomination.