Enviro Groups Pan Obama's Mining Pick

"He is fair-minded, listens to all perspectives, and has a deep commitment to protecting our nation's lands, waterways, and communities, and enforcing our environmental laws," read Barkoff's statement.

The consensus among several current and former Office of Surface Mining employees was that Pizarchik was likely to speed approval for mining projects, not address environmental concerns, said Jeff Ruch of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

"We've been hearing. . . that he's an appointee that's going to make the mining permits run on time," Ruch said Wednesday. "As far as eliminating the abuses of mountaintop removal and turn[ing] around a troubled agency, he's an improbable candidate," based on his record in Pennsylvania, Ruch said.

Calls to the White House went unreturned.

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