Not many contractors have the guts to bite the hand that feeds them.
The Wall Street Journal reports,
A former Interior Department consultant said officials told him to change his firm’s calculations after they led to an estimate that a proposed coal-mining rule could cost as many as 7,000 jobs.
A draft of the jobs analysis caused a stir when it was made public in January and gave a boost to opponents of the rule, which was aimed at protecting streams from the impact of mining waste.
At a congressional hearing Friday, J. Steven Gardner, president of consulting firm ECSI LLC, said the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining [OSM] had suggested the firm “revisit the [coal] production impacts and associated job-loss numbers, and with different assumptions that would then change the final outcome to show less of an impact.”
Mr. Gardner, whose firm was asked to estimate how much coal production would fall, said his team “unanimously refused to use a ‘fabricated’ baseline scenario.” The department later ended the firm’s contract and hired a replacement to do the economic analysis.
Christopher Holmes, a spokesman for the Office of Surface Mining, said the agency “respectfully disagrees with portions of the testimony”…
Rep. Bill Johnson (R., Ohio) said Mr. Gardner’s testimony appeared to contradict testimony given on Nov. 4 before the same subcommittee by [OSM chief] Mr. [Joseph] Pizarchik. Asked whether any official had asked the contractor to change assumptions, Mr. Pizarchik replied, “As regarding any official, anybody in the management level, I don’t believe that occurred.”
Mr. Johnson called for Mr. Pizarchik to testify again and said the government should release recordings of the February meeting between employees at the Office of Surface Mining and the contractors. “I will not rest until we have all the answers,” he said.
The regulation at issue deals with the placement of mining waste near streams, among other things, and is expected to affect both surface and underground coal-mining operations across the U.S.
The Office of Surface Mining said Friday it is committed to moving forward with the rule and expects to publish a formal proposal next spring, several months later than originally planned.