A rally in support of coal is scheduled for this weekend in southeast Kentucky. It stemmed from a Facebook post, but now Bell County resident and business owner Joe Harris says he expects more than 20,000 people to line a county road Saturday in support of coal. Harris says the event—dubbed “Hands of Coal Across Bell County” isn’t a protest, but just a show of support for the coal industry. Coal is still a major employer in Bell County, but as reduced demand leads to layoffs, Harris says other residents and businesses are suffering.
“Here in our small town, we’re closing stores a lot faster than we’re opening them. Actually, we’re not opening any new stores at all. It’s all closing the stores. It looks like it’s going to come down to the fact that people are going to have to leave this area because of the impact it’s making on us.”
Coal use is down so far this year, due to a combination of new environmental regulations, cheap natural gas and a warmer than usual winter. Harris says he’d welcome any other industry to Bell County, but the beleaguered coal industry is the only large employer.