Kentucky’s Coal Production Lowest Since 1954

Feb 1, 2016

Credit iStockPhoto

Kentucky’s coal industry shed more jobs and production during the last quarter of 2015, according to new data released today.

The report released by the Energy and Environment Cabinet shows the state’s coal production dropped by more than 20 percent from 2014 levels, hitting the lowest level since 1954. Eastern Kentucky took the largest hit, losing a quarter of its capacity last year.

And with the decreased coal production came layoffs. More than 3,200 coal miners were laid off last year, with 1,000 losing their jobs in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says he expected the news to be dismal, due to a number of factors. “We had unseasonably warm temperatures, we had the flooding which prevented some of the transport of Eastern Kentucky coal to its destination in the southern United States.”

It seems unlikely that the industry has bottomed out. The report noted that most of Kentucky’s coal goes to generate electricity at power plants in the Southeast. Three percent of that went to coal plants that retired in 2015. Another 13 percent went to plants that have announced their plans to retire units before 2019.

The industry’s decline is expected to continue, as power plants in the region begin retiring or switching to other fuel in anticipation of federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.