Brent Wahlquist Named Acting Director of OSM
U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton named Brent Wahlquist to serve as acting director of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in place of Jeffrey Jarrett, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy. Wahlquist will serve until President Bush nominates and the Senate confirms a new OSM director.
Walquist is a career OSM employee with more than 22 years at the agency in an executive level. He currently serves as OSM regional director of the Appalachian region, where he oversees the agency's programs in a seven-state area. Previously he served as regional director of the agency's Mid-Continent and Western regions and as assistant director in Washington D.C.
"Brent Wahlquist has broad experience in all areas of the Office of Surface Mining and will guide the agency ably until a new director is nominated and confirmed," Norton said.
Wahlquist, a native of Idaho, holds a PhD in biology from New Mexico State University, and both a masters and a bachelors degree in botany from Brigham Young University.
The Office of Surface Mining has about 600 employees nationwide. Only by partnerships with the governments of the states where coal is mined can it succeed.
The Surface Mining Law gives primary responsibility for regulating surface coal mine reclamation to the states themselves, a responsibility that 24 coal states have chosen to exercise. On federal lands and Indian Reservations (Navajo, Hopi, Crow, and Ute), and in the coal producing states that have not set up regulatory programs of their own (Tennessee and Washington), the Office of Surface Mining issues the coal mine permits, conducts the inspections, and handles the enforcement responsibilities.
The Office of Surface Mining's current annual budget is approximately $300 million.
That sum enables the Office of Surface Mining to support the states' surface mining programs by matching their regulation and enforcement costs dollar for dollar. It also pays 100 percent of the costs for restoring abandoned mine lands that were left un-reclaimed before Surface Mining Law was signed by the President.
Funds for reclaiming abandoned mines come from tonnage-based reclamation fees paid by America's active coal mines.
The Office of Surface Mining is field-oriented, with headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Three regional coordinating centers (Pittsburgh, PA; Alton, IL; and Denver, CO provide technical assistance to field offices, states, and tribes. Eight field offices (Albuquerque, NM ; Big Stone Gap, VA; Birmingham, AL; Casper, WY; Charleston, WV; Knoxville, TN; Lexington, KY; and Tulsa, OK) and eleven area offices (Beckley, WV; Columbus, OH; Farmington, NM; Harrisburg, PA; Indianapolis, IN; Johnstown, PA; London, KY; Madisonville, KY; Morgantown, WV; Olympia, WA; and Pikeville, KY located where coal mining is most active, are responsible for on-the-ground regulation and oversight. In addition, the Office of Surface Mining also maintains a financial management office in Denver, CO; an Anthracite Office in Wilkes-Barre, PA; and an Appalachia Abandoned Mine Land Office in Ashland, Ky. These offices form a three region organizational structure. cl
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