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Uram Quits Mine Agency, Says He Accomplished Goal of Streamlining

August 16, 1996

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Robert Uram, the director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining who presided over a one-third budget cut and drew fire from conservationists, has resigned.

Uram, a former mining industry lawyer from San Francisco, said Thursday he has accomplished his goal of streamlining the Interior Department agency that enforces federal strip-mining laws and will step down Sept. 15.

``We have gone through some tough times, but we have also been very successful in making needed improvements to OSM,″ Uram wrote in a memo to his staff.

Industry representatives hailed him as a man who cut waste from a bloated bureaucracy, but conservationists accused him of cutting inspectors, not bureaucrats.

``OSM has become a more efficient agency, and Bob is to be praised for that accomplishment,″ said Richard Lawson, president of the National Mining Association.

But Ellen Pfister, chairwoman of the Citizens Coal Council in Washington, D.C., said she is glad to see Uram go. The group has accused Uram of cutting inspectors and fixing tickets for large coal companies in the West _ including No. 1 coal producer Peabody Coal Co., for whose subsidiary Uram once did legal work.

``We hope that this is an end of the agency’s war on coal field citizens and its own mine inspectors and enforcement personnel,″ she said.

Uram, an associate solicitor for surface mining during the Carter administration, was sworn in as director in March 1994.

Last year, Congress cut the 19-year-old agency’s funds by $24 million, about a third of its operating budget. The cuts prompted the layoff of nearly a third of his work force.

And this year, bills have progressed through Congress to take away the agency’s authority to issue violation notices against strip mining companies in states that have their own mine regulatory programs.

Uram has testified against that legislation, but said he did work to have states become the primary enforcers of strip mining regulations, freeing the federal agency to work on specific problem areas.

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