Kentucky mine regulator blames coal industry for his firing

Lexington Herald-LeaderDecember 7, 2009 

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Steve Beshear said he sees no reason to investigate the recent firing of a state mining regulator who blames political pressure from the coal industry for his dismissal.

Beshear said he is not aware of anyone in his administration contacting Alliance Coal about the firing of mine permits director Ron Mills and can't explain how an Alliance executive knew about it within minutes.

"We certainly can’t control every phone call that comes into state government or out of state government," he said.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Monday that Raymond "Rusty" Ashcraft, Alliance Coal's manager of environmental affairs and permitting, wrote an e-mail to his colleagues at 9:24 a.m. on Nov. 13 that predicted Mills' firing. Minutes earlier, Mills had been pulled aside in Frankfort and fired.

Ashcraft's e-mail also identified Mills' replacement, who was not named until later that day. "Ron Mills will be asked to resign this morning and will be replaced by Allen Luttrell on an acting basis," Ashcraft wrote.

Beshear said Mills' firing does not warrant a state investigation even though critics say Ashcraft’s e-mail raises questions about Alliance Coal's role in the firing of Mills, who opposed a controversial policy that allows the company to mine without showing it has the legal right to enter all the land in its plans.

"I do not micromanage our cabinets," Beshear said.

Ashcraft has said he prefers not to discuss Mills' firing.


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