Former SME President J. Steven Gardner has withdrawn his name from consideration to be the director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) in the Department of the Interior.
Gardner, president and chief executive officer of ESCI LLC, a Lexington, KY-based consulting firm, was nominated to lead the OSM in October 2017 by President Trump. In a statement, Gardner, who served as President of SME in 2015, said he made the difficult decision to withdraw his name following a vetting process that has drawn out for more than 16 months.
“This decision was very difficult for me and comes after over a year of back and forth with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) over the financial impacts of the employment conditions. 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 said.
Housed in the Department of the Interior, the OSM is tasked with overseeing state mine reclamation programs and protecting health and the environment from the effects of surface coal mining.
Gardner holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and master’s degree in mining engineering from the University of Kentucky and his nomination was praised by Kentucky lawmakers, the National Mining Association and others. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said at the time that Gardner would be an “asset to coal country.” The nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for a vote.
By January, the committee still hadn’t voted on Gardner’s nomination, so the nomination was sent back to the president. According to Senate rules, a nomination that’s neither been confirmed nor rejected goes back to the president.
“I feel I could have been of service and made a difference for the country, state governments served by OSM and the industry that is still so vital to the country.” Gardner said. “I have worked with OSM in many capacities for the 40 years it has been in existence. 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.”
“I thank everyone who supported me and my apologies to all those who had said they were counting on me."