Finally, the Beshear administration is showing a wee bit of curiosity about the corruption in state mine inspections that led to the criminal conviction of former Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall.
The Energy and Environment Cabinet responded to Herald-Leader questions last week by saying it has asked for a meeting with the FBI in light of what came out during Hall's recent trial in federal court in Pikeville.
An FBI accountant presented evidence that strongly suggests Hall was not the only one paying Kelly Shortridge, the former mining inspector who admitted giving Hall favorable treatment in exchange for $46,000 in bribes.
Shortridge, who is awaiting sentencing, had a habit of depositing more than $1,000 in cash within hours of inspecting various mines owned by people other than Hall, according to the FBI's analysis of banking and work records.
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This is not the first time questions have arisen about the Pike ville office of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement where Shortridge, an inspector for 24 years, worked.
Other Pikeville-based inspectors allowed a surface mine (not owned by Hall) to operate without a permit for 18 months, until July 2010, when rain dislodged the unreclaimed mountain and flooded out about 80 families. One of the inspectors retired a month later.
Remember, too, that the division went years without penalizing coal companies for filing bogus water pollution reports by copying and pasting the same data, month after month.
A coalition of environmental and citizens groups discovered "water monitoring reports from more than 60 coal mines and processing facilities covered in dust on the desks of mine inspectors' secretaries. They did not appear to have been evaluated for compliance by the regulators for more than three years."
Since then, water monitoring oversight was shifted to the Division of Water.
But you get the picture.
It's easy to see a pattern that demands closer scrutiny. What's at stake is Kentuckians' safety, health, even their lives.
Hall's mines rained down rocks and trees on residential areas, including boulders that crash- landed inside houses, as the Herald-Leader's John Cheves first reported two years ago.
Despite signs of impropriety between Hall and its employee, the cabinet responded tepidly, satisfied with an inconclusive report by its inspector general.
When Shortridge was re assigned from Hall's mines in 2011, he threatened workplace violence. His punishment: a 15-day suspension.
Thanks to U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor, the FBI and others in the Justice Department for taking Kentuckians' safety seriously and pursuing this corruption — a pursuit that would seem to have some miles to go.
The cabinet emphasized that any investigation it undertakes would be narrow since it has no prosecution powers. This should be a moment of truth, but history tells us not to expect an aggressive self-examination of the state agency's love affair with the coal industry.
Likewise for Democratic lawmakers. They should be having second thoughts about their tolerance for the kinds of conflicts of interest that enabled Hall to have oversight of the agency he was bribing.