Beshear Administration Fires Commissioner of Natural Resources

by Erica Peterson on November 30, 2011

The commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources has been fired. The Energy and Environment cabinet didn’t give any reason for dismissing Carl Campbell, who was a political appointee, but his successor could have significant influence over the administration of certain programs.

Campbell was appointed commissioner in 2008, and before that spent 25 years in Kentucky’s Division of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. When he was hired, a press release praised his credentials. Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters was quoted as saying: “Carl’s experience, his knowledge of the coal industry and his leadership skills will serve the department well as Governor Beshear’s administration focuses on energy.”

Campbell was dismissed without cause yesterday. As commissioner, he oversaw the cabinet’s divisions of mine reclamation and enforcement, mine safety and forestry, among others.

Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council says the new commissioner could have a significant effect on the programs. He says Campbell was working on several initiatives that were controversial among mine operators, like working to increase the amount of money companies have to put into bonds to ensure mine lands are reclaimed after mining is finished.

“I think there have been four separate federal agency reports indicating that Kentucky’s bonds are grossly inadequate in some circumstances,” FitzGerald said. “And Carl was pushing to get those bonds increased. And there was significant pushback from the industry, particularly eastern Kentucky coal industry.”

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says he felt Campbell had dealt fairly with the coal industry.

“I can’t say we always agreed with him, and there were times when he didn’t agree with us, but the big thing is that we always had that line of communication to him, and he was definitely very clear in his communications with us,” Bissett said.

Dick Brown, spokesman at the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said he couldn’t comment on personnel matters. Deputy Commissioner Larry Arnett will oversee the department until a new commissioner is named. Brown said that could happen by the end of the week.

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