Longtime OSMRE Employees Honored with Interior Department’s Distinguished Service Awards
On May 8, 2014, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell honored two veteran OSMRE employees with one of the Department’s most coveted and prestigious awards.
At a ceremony in Washington, DC, Joseph L. Blackburn and Michael K. Robinson each received a Distinguished Service Award, the highest honorary recognition for Interior employees.
OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik, Distinguished Service Award Winner Michael K. Robinson, Distinguished Service Award Winner Joseph L. Blackburn, and Appalachian Regional Director Thomas Shope.
During his 35 years of service, Joe Blackburn helped to develop many of the inspection and enforcement procedures that remain in place at OSMRE today. Blackburn also led a team of professionals that brought to a halt the abuse of the practice of two-acre mining exemptions. As the Director of the bureau’s Lexington (Kentucky) Field Office, he brought state and Federal agencies, environmental groups, and industry groups together to develop an innovative approach to better coordinate permitting under the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) in Kentucky. The resulting “Local Inter-agency Coordination Agreement” reflects his ability to bring groups together to protect the environment and better the lives of citizens in the coal fields of Appalachia.
Throughout his 34-year career with OSMRE, Mike Robinson worked to further the bureau’s mission on a variety of fronts. Soon after joining the newly formed bureau, Robinson was assigned to write the permanent SMCRA regulations on excess spoil disposal and coal waste facilities. Subsequently, he led teams on analyzing coal compensatory takings claims, an effort that saved the bureau and the Department tens of millions of dollars from over-valued claims and unintended takings. Later, Robinson helped create the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative, Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and Technical Innovation and Professional Services program, and led an inter-agency team to prepare a five-year study of surface mining and reclamation in the Appalachian coal fields.
Secretary Jewell presented the awards to Blackburn and Robinson at the Department’s 69th Departmental Honor Awards at Interior Headquarters. Forty employees from other Interior bureaus received Distinguished Service Awards as well. The ceremony also featured awards for occupational safety and health, and for valor.