DOI Nomination - Correll

Nomination of John Ray Correll, of Indiana, to be Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement 










July 20, 2006


      Mr. Chairman, Senator Bingaman, and distinguished Members of the Committee, it is a great honor to come before you today as you consider my experience and qualifications for confirmation as President Bush’s nominee for Director – Office of Surface Mining (OSM).   I am grateful for the confidence and trust the President has shown in me by this nomination and for giving me the opportunity to serve.  I also thank Secretary Kempthorne for his support of this nomination, and if confirmed, I look forward to his leadership and guidance.  

      Coal, an abundant and economical energy source, has played a key role in the history of our great nation, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.  As you know, clean coal technology plays a pivotal role in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as envisioned by this Committee, as well as the Administration’s Advanced Energy Initiative.  I am humbled yet enthusiastic with the prospect of leading a regulatory agency whose mission includes oversight for the ecological production of coal at a time in our nation’s history when the necessity for energy independence from foreign sources has never been more widely recognized. 

      We can ensure the conservation and restoration of our beautiful country and a secure energy source by providing the necessary leadership and strategic thinking to create and surpass new milestones of excellence, while building on past accomplishments of OSM.  I don’t underestimate the complexity and significance of these beliefs, and I respectfully ask for your confirmation of the President’s nomination.

      I am proud that Nancy, my high school sweetheart and wife of 37 years, is with me today.  After all these years of being at my side, she continues to be my greatest source of encouragement, my best friend, and most astute counsel.  I want to publicly acknowledge Nancy not just for permitting me to pursue my dreams and career ambitions but also for being my life partner and giving me the greatest family a person could ever have.  Our sons Jason and Tony, daughter-in-law Tina and grandsons Alex and Max couldn’t be here today to share in this honor, nor could my father and step Mother.  But I can assure you that I have their support and confidence in asking for your confirmation of my nomination, and all are devotedly awaiting your deliberation.

      By way of personal background, I grew up in Linton, a small coal-mining town in Southern Indiana, where my parents, Ray and Maxine Correll owned and successfully operated a retail business.  Life in Linton, then and now, basically revolved around family, church, school and outdoor recreation.  Values such as faith, honor, patriotism and respect were taught early on and reinforced as a way of life. 

      Some interesting highlights of my little home town’s history include the birth place of band leader and actor Phil Harris; the home of a 7-day Freedom Festival which includes the second largest July 4th parade in the great state of Indiana; and the stone monument which was originally made from coal and placed in the city park designating the town as the official center of the U.S. population in 1930. 

      My home town has been at the center of coal mining in Indiana dating back to the late 1800s.  Coal mining in 1870 turned Linton into a boomtown.  Later, between 1900 and 1906, the population of Linton swelled from 3,000 to over 12,000 with the advent of several new coal mine openings.

      Our community was surrounded by many lakes and streams, woods and meadows.  Outdoor recreation was abundantly available, with swimming, fishing, hunting and camping at our doorstep.  And my family enjoyed these natural resources at every opportunity.  Consequently, during my childhood I developed a lifelong passion and appreciation for the great outdoors and the splendor of our natural resources. 

      It was also during my childhood that I witnessed first-hand a legacy of coal mining from previous generations.  Evidence of surface and underground coal mining conducted during the late 19th and early 20th century could be found throughout the area.  Orange-colored acidic water contaminated many creeks, rivers and lakes.  Acres of shale-covered ground, surrounded by unleveled spoil banks resulted in many areas that could not support any kind of vegetation or plant growth. 

      Old abandoned coal refuse piles and coal slurry lay atop ground that once was prime farm land or woods.  Hazardous, open, unrestricted mine portals beckoned people of all ages into old mines.  And decaying, abandoned mining facilities and structures were scattered about inviting trespass…and grave danger.  This coal mining legacy left an indelible image in my memory that I have carried throughout my adult life. 

      Today, my home town community serves as a testament to the effectiveness and necessity of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) which bears little or no reflection of those early mining years, with current mining addressing environmental conservation and protection  throughout the mining process. 

      In 1975, like several relatives before me, I began a career in mining…this was two years before the implementation of SMCRA.  With the enactment of this Act came a new era in coal mining, with a much-needed focus on the legacy of mining with equal emphasis on regulating active mining to protect the environment and society to eliminate what I had witnessed growing up. 

      My professional career now spans 30 years in the mining industry (nearly equally divided between the coal and metal/nonmetal sectors), with significant experience in the Midwest, Southwest (including Navajo and Hopi Tribal lands), Appalachia and the Upper Midwest, the majority of which involving surface mining.  

      During my early career in coal mining, I worked closely with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) inspectors and staff to implement the newly enacted SMCRA, and I gained a fundamental understanding of OSM’s mission, vision and importance.  Throughout my mining career I have worked collaboratively and directly with state and federal agencies, mining companies, and other stakeholders to ensure safe and healthy mine production with equal value placed on conservation and protection of all resources, and the safety and well-being of all people potentially impacted. 

      And more recently I have been on the regulator’s side of the business equation, responsible for Federal oversight of the mining industry to ensure compliance with Federal safety and health rules and regulations.  This experience has given me a proper understanding of the responsibility and duty of a regulatory agency and criticality of firm, fair and consistent enforcement of all applicable rules and regulations.

      Mr. Chairman, over the course of my career my philosophy on certain aspects of mining has become fixed.  Mining is vital to commerce and our national economy, as well as our national defense.  A balance can and must be maintained between conservation and protection, and production.  Environmental requirements are not mutually exclusive to the efficient production of energy.  I hold these beliefs as values, meaning resolute as opposed to priorities which often change.

      I know that firm and fair enforcement, combined with the right kind of compliance and technology assistance, as well as education and training will result in accomplishing this balance, regardless of the mining methods employed.  And I know that partnerships and cooperative alliances based on trust and mutual goals are needed to mobilize the commitment we all share for compliance to the laws and regulations administered by the OSM, and to advance mining with appropriate protection and conservation of our natural resources. 

      The primary objectives of the OSM include: ensuring that coal mines are operated in a manner that protects citizens and the environment during mining; assuring that the land is restored to beneficial use following mining; and mitigating the effects of past mining by aggressively pursuing reclamation of abandoned mines. 

      Mr. Chairman, and members of this Committee, I pledge to aggressively pursue these objectives and advance the remarkable progress already achieved in abandoned mine reclamation, and ensuring strict adherence to the laws and regulations designed to protect the public and our natural resources from active and future mining.  I further pledge to implement and strengthen technical and educational programs that address OSM laws and regulations and to encourage a cooperative and productive dialogue between the OSM, the States, the tribes, the regulated community, the stakeholders, other agencies and the public. 

      Furthermore, I will work diligently to build bipartisan support to achieve our mutual goals of producing essential energy without sacrificing our environment, and without putting the public at risk.  Together, we can forge a mining legacy for future generations of Americans that contributes positively to their quality of life.

      Thank you for your consideration of my nomination, and also for the opportunity to provide my views which should be a basis upon which to measure my future performance if I am confirmed.  I respectfully request your support in this important and essential confirmation process.  I also look forward to hearing your comments and perspectives regarding the issues and challenges facing OSM.  I will be pleased to respond to any questions you might have to the best of my ability.

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