Connecting political dots with coal

Readers might recall that about a year ago, we editorialized about a strip-mining operation near Elkhorn City that the Beshear administration allowed, despite evidence that it would degrade already polluted tributaries of the Russell Fork and that its water-pollution permit was invalid.

An administrative law judge ordered a temporary halt to the mining while the legal questions were sorted out, but Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters quickly overturned the judge's ruling and allowed the contested mining to resume.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate also allowed the mining to continue, citing a convenient Catch 22 for the coal industry: The permit could not be challenged in state court until the state mine-regulatory agency issued a final order.

Fast forward a year, and guess who's one of the co-chairs of Beshear's second inaugural committee: James Booth, president of Cambrian Coal, the company that the Beshear administration allowed to continue possibly illegal mining.

Booth and his wife, Linda, of Inez will be helping three other couples who are also co-chairs raise money for the Dec. 13 festivities.

And that's not all. Booth, a prolific political donor who usually favors Republicans, made a generous gift to the Kentucky Democratic Party in October, as opinion polls showed Beshear and most of the Democrats on the ballot heading for substantial victories.

Booth, his wife and two associates combined to give $40,000 to the state party, according to Federal Election Commission records reported by The Courier-Journal.

Not a great omen for Kentuckians who were hoping that in his second term, Beshear would cultivate a less cozy relationship with the coal industry and do more to protect the environment.