Whitesburg KY

Another gaffe

The decision to remove Susan Bush as commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources just adds to the widespread impression, even among many of Gov. Steve Beshear’s friends and supporters, that his young administration still doesn’t have its act together.

And this is one mess the Governor can’t blame on Senate President David Williams.

A couple of quick calls to responsible and knowledgeable individuals would have made clear that environmentalists would object to Ms. Bush being dumped. And sure enough, once the deed was done, Kentucky Resource Council’s Tom FitzGerald bemoaned the removal of “a valued and trusted colleague whom KRC admires and respects.” A check of newspaper clippings would have revealed the 2006 Distinguished Service Award given to her by the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.

It’s true that mine safety activists were not enthusiastic about Ms. Bush, dating back to the morning when state police showed up to guard the hearing into the Kentucky Darby mine disaster. Their presence was viewed as an insensitive and needless act of intimidation by the victims’ families. The claim that officers were there to keep the press from interfering was viewed as fatuous.

Miners’ advocates also blame Ms. Bush for the elimination of important “retreat mining” safeguards from 2007 Kentucky mine safety legislation and for a falloff in citations written by state mine safety analysts in the coal region around Martin County.

One way for the Governor to have dealt with such concerns would have been to transfer the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing out of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (which he intends to split anyway, in a much-needed reorganization) and place OMSL in the Labor Cabinet. (which is supposed to help ensure healthy and safe Kentucky workplaces).

In any case, the next question is who will replace Ms. Bush. It should be someone with both appropriate background and a reputation for toughness in pursuit of the public interest. Surely, it won’t be some nondescript, long-tenured individual whose qualifications for promotion are – instead of boldness and courage – the instincts it takes to thrive in a bureaucracy.

– The Courier-Journal, Louisville

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