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New DEP bureau director named for District Mining Operations in California

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7:09 p.m.
Joel Koricich

Joel Koricich has a new job as the district manager for the state's mining office in California, but the position carries with it old challenges — operating a critical office in times of a tight state budget and handling it while being short-staffed.

Koricich, 55, oversees a district mining office for the Department of Environmental Protection that covers the western third of Pennsylvania, which has 40 underground and surface mines.

The state announced last month that Koricich, a 33-year veteran of the department, was appointed to the district mining manager's post after serving as acting mining manager for the past 17 months. He succeeds William Plassio, who was named the bureau director for District Mining Operations for the department.

“Joel is a registered professional engineer who brings a wealth of experience in all phases of surface and underground mining to the position,” Plassio said.

Koricich said his office has become a “one-stop shop,” responsible for overseeing the review and processing of permits for underground mines, coal refuse and fly ash disposal facilities, coal preparation plants, mine treatment plants, stream encroachment issues, wetlands and air quality activities relating to mining.

The office also is responsible for authorizing permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants into waters.

“We really do manage the mining industry and other related activities for the Department of Environmental Protection,” Koricich said.

Koricich has worked for the Department of Environmental Protection and its predecessor, the Department of Environmental Resources, for 33 years.

“I'm kind of one of the old guys,” Koricich said.

For his first 11 years with the state, Koricich was a senior civil engineer responsible for all aspects of surface mining and compliance. Over the past 22 years, he has worked in several jobs at the California district mining office.

In addition to his DEP experience, Koricich was an environmental health engineer with the Allegheny County Health Department and a regional engineer manager with Chambers Development Corp., a waste management firm that was based in Penn Hills.

Koricich, a Belle Vernon Area High School graduate, said it was the experience of Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which caused extensive flooding in Western Pennsylvania, that piqued his interest in the field of environmental engineering. At Penn State, he earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering, a field that Koricich said was “in its infancy and starting to grow.”

A lifelong resident of Collinsburg, Korcich is active in the community as chief of the Collinsburg Volunteer Fire Co. He joined the fire company at 17 as a junior firefighter and “quickly realized it was serious business.”

Koricich credits Kelly, his wife of 36 years, for being understanding of his commitment to the fire company. The couple has two daughters.

Not only is he chief of one of three fire companies in Rostraver, but Koricich is a strike team leader with the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatics Rescue Team, a state fire academy instructor and an instructor-trainer in swiftwater rescue for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. He also is an emergency boat operations instructor, a National Association of Underwater Instructors master diver and a state helicopter aquatic rescue team leader.

He also serves as a forest fire warden for the state's Forbes State Forest region in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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