Coal

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissions — some two years in the making — calling it the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change."

Petr Kratochvil, publicdomainpictures.net

U.S. Rep Hal Rogers, a staunch supporter of Kentucky’s coal industry, said last week that the state must consider other manners of employment for the Appalachian region besides coal.

When you flip on a light switch, odds are, you're burning coal. But as the fracking boom continues to unleash huge quantities of natural gas, the nation's electric grid is changing. Power plants are increasingly turning to this low-cost, cleaner-burning fossil fuel.

Bill Pentak stands in the middle of a construction site, looking up at his company's latest project towering overhead — a new natural gas power plant.

In 25 years, Kentucky’s energy landscape will look dramatically different than it does now. As Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters told a legislative committee last week, Kentucky is already facing the loss of the majority of its coal fleet over the next 25 years, and that’s without the EPA’s upcoming greenhouse gas regulations.

Image: coalcampusa.com

  A federal judge in Colorado has ruled the federal government should have taken the indirect environmental effects of expanding the Colowyo and Trapper coal mines into account before issuing a permit. These “indirect effects” include the environmental toll of burning the coal in power plants. But because of differences in the way western and eastern coal mines are regulated, it’s hard to say what effect, if any, this ruling could have on Appalachian mines.

Wikimedia Commons/Author: PixOnTrax

Hopkins County is facing a nearly five percent budget cut thanks in large part to a reduction in coal severance tax revenue. The county is home to multiple underground mining operations. The severance tax revenue goes to counties based on a formula that includes the tonnage of coal extracted and its price. The $1.34m reduction won’t prompt any layoffs, according to Judge Executive Donnie Carroll.

Austin Ramsey, WKMS

Coal jobs in Kentucky declined sharply in the first quarter of this year, according to the state’s latest quarterly coal report.

Austin Ramsey, WKMS

As Kentucky's overall unemployment rate continues to fall, employment in the coal mining industry is somewhat stagnant. The state's jobless rate for February came in at 5.2 percent, the lowest since the fall of 2004. 

Frankie Steele/Louisville Public Media

 

For the first time in about a century, no union coal miners are working in Kentucky. The state’s few remaining union miners were laid off New Year’s Eve when Patriot Coal’s Highland Mine in Western Kentucky shut down, the United Mine Workers of America confirmed.

“Appalachia was always a really tough nut for the union to crack, and I think maybe Kentucky was the toughest nut of all,” said labor historian James Green, author of a new book about West Virginia’s mine wars.

NRDC

President Obama released his proposed budget today, and for the first time, the plan includes direct funding to help coal communities transition away from economies based on fossil fuels. 

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