Biden’s top coal regulator faces political pressure on all sides

By Hannah Northey | 06/21/2024 01:35 PM EDT

As a lawyer for NRDC, Sharon Buccino spent years tussling with the agency she now leads.

Sharon Buccino

Sharon Buccino, principal deputy director at the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Department of the Interior

Sharon Buccino has sued the Interior Department and once criticized miners for leaving a “trashed landscape and contaminated water” after digging up coal across the West.

Now, the longtime environmental lawyer and public lands advocate is on the inside, serving as a top Biden political appointee tasked with reining in coal mining pollution and leading an office at the very agency she once challenged in court.

But Buccino, a litigator at the Natural Resources Defense Council for more than three decades, faces a daunting task in leading the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, or OSMRE.


For years, President Joe Biden has declined to formally nominate a leader for the Interior agency, even as its job of cleaning up aging and toxic coal mines grows.