Gov. Steve Beshear should explain who's regulating the coal industry — state government or the coal industry?
This question is prompted by a string of things we know and a few we don't.
We know the state fell far behind in strip-mine inspections because of a crisis in funding and staff, falling from a 97 percent inspection completion record to just 83 percent in the most recent fiscal year.
We know Beshear unveiled a plan to hire more personnel to speed up the mine permitting process and clear a backlog of coal industry applications.
We've yet to hear of a corresponding increase in inspectors to be sure the industry is complying with the new permits and the law. Strip-mine inspection is so underfunded the state was required to return $1 million in federal matching funds.
We know the Beshear administration reinstated a possibly illegal underground-mine permitting policy to, in the words of a high-ranking environmental official, "accommodate the coal interests."
We know Ron Mills, the official who refused to sign permits under the accommodating policy, was fired.
Now we learn that a coal company executive knew about the firing as soon as Mills did.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.