After being name checked in two of President Donald Trump’s recent speeches, a new coal mine opened in Pennsylvania last week. But, while the new mine may be cause for local celebration and useful for political rhetoric, it isn’t a harbinger of what’s to come in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has agreed to hold off on letting electric utilities transition to the state’s new, relaxed coal ash rules until litigation is complete, except under special circumstances.
At several power plants around Kentucky, coal ash is mixed with water and stored in gigantic ponds. These ponds typically hold millions of gallons of sludge that contains dangerous contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. They sit in and around residential neighborhoods. And as WFPL’s Erica Peterson reports, many people living near the plants are still in the dark about what would happen in the event of an emergency.
After years of coal industry decline, Kentucky has fallen from the nation’s third largest coal producer to the fifth. Federal data released last month shows the 42 million tons of coal the commonwealth produced in 2016 was eclipsed by Pennsylvania and Illinois. Wyoming and West Virginia have long been above Kentucky in coal production.