By Stephen Lee
J. Steven Gardner, the Trump administration’s pick to head the Interior Department office that regulates coal mining reclamation, has taken his name out of the running for the job.
Gardner, a mining consultant at ECSI LLC in Lexington, Ky., told Bloomberg Environment on Sept. 6 he is withdrawing from the top job at the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement because the vetting process has been dragging on for nearly a year with no end in sight.
“This decision was very difficult for me and comes after almost a year of back and forth with the Office of Government Ethics over the conditions for an ethics agreement,” Gardner said in an email.
“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.”
Gardner’s candidacy for the job never reached the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, which would have voted on his confirmation.
Gardner expressed sadness about ending his candidacy for the job.
“I have worked with OSM in many capacities for the 40 years it has been in existence,” he wrote. “I have many friends in OSM, state governments and knowledge of the program. That is why I am saddened by the necessity to make this decision. It is time to move on to refocus on my business and family and recoup some of the opportunities lost from the last year of uncertainty.”
In the absence of a chief, the agency lacks a champion to stand up for its budget, ensure that hundreds of agency and state employees are trained in reclamation enforcement, or make any broad policy decisions, Joe Pizarchik, the most recent head of the agency, told Bloomberg Environment in June.
Gardner in June told Bloomberg Environment that, at one time, the administration had raised concerns both about his role as a consultant and his wife’s possible involvement with the mining industry.
“The conflict issue was raised from the start, but there was a plan in place to address that,” Gardner said at the time. “My wife works for Kentucky state government, but not in any role involved with [OSMRE], so that was really not an issue.”
The Trump administration had, at one time, voiced strong support for Gardner. When he was nominated in October 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he would be an “unbelievable asset to coal country and the entire team at the Department of the Interior.”
For now, OSMRE is led on an interim basis by longtime agency official Glenda Owens.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)