For the first time in a year, quarterly data shows an increase in coal production in Eastern Kentucky. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is rebounding.
Between April and June of this year, Eastern Kentucky’s coal production increased by 15 percent. Percentage-wise, this is the biggest gain in Eastern Kentucky coal production in at least 14 years. But even though the industry has seen occasional ups, overall it’s been a steady downward trend.
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says the information is encouraging, but doesn’t necessarily mean anything long-term about the future of Appalachian coal.
“I think it’s way too soon to begin celebrating until we get several quarters of trends where we either see a flat or an increase like we saw this last quarter,” he said.
The downward trend started before President Obama took office—under President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, Eastern Kentucky saw production drop nearly 25 percent. Since then, the region’s coal production has been cut in half. This is partly due to tighter environmental regulations on mining and burning coal, but largely a function of market factors.
Western Kentucky has fared slightly better; the region’s coal production has held fairly steady over the past few years.