Like other Appalachian states, Kentucky’s coal and utility industry is in a period of transition. Environmental regulations, declining reserves and market conditions are making coal more expensive to mine and burn. Over the past six years, the number of coal miners in the eastern part of the state has been cut in half. Several of Kentucky’s large, aging coal-fired power plants have announced their plans to retire or switch to natural gas.
Across an ocean, in Germany, is a coal-producing country also undergoing a transition.
In the final weeks of Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, state regulators and legislators haven’t closed the door on the possibility that Kentucky will create its own plan to comply with upcoming federal carbon dioxide regulations.
This is the second story in a two-part investigation. The first story can be found here.
Rick Handshoe used to dream about building a house on his 50-some acres of property in Floyd County. He put a trailer there and raised his daughter. He planted an apple orchard and a garden. For years, he’d stand on the banks of the two small streams that met on his Eastern Kentucky land and catch crawdads and minnows.
Kentucky state regulators are warning people to avoid recreational contact with the Ohio River from the West Virginia border, past Louisville all the way to the Cannelton Locks and Dam in Hancock County. Over the past two weeks, a harmful algal bloom has spread, releasing toxins into the water.