Kentucky’s coal industry shed more than 2,300 jobs last year, according to the latest numbers from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Most of those losses were in eastern Kentucky .
The final quarterly coal report from the Energy and Environment cabinet wraps up a dismal year for the industry. And for Eastern Kentucky, this marks the 10th straight quarter of declining coal employment.
Since 2007, Eastern Kentucky has lost more than 6,000 coal jobs, just under half. Coal production has dropped even more drastically. At the same time, production and employment have grown modestly in the western portion of the commonwealth.
A number of factors are behind the decline, including pollution controls that allow plants to burn higher sulfur coal, like that mined in western Kentucky and Illinois.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved agreements that Century Aluminum of Kentucky says are necessary to keep operating a western Kentucky smelter.
The agreements allow the smelter to be supplied power purchased on the open market by Kenergy Corp. rather than power generated by Big Rivers Electric Corp.
The PSC said in its order Thursday that the agreements are substantially the same as those it approved in August for the Century smelter in Hawesville.
The Hawesville smelter has about 700 employees and the Sebree smelter about 500.
Big Rivers has a pending rate increase request to compensate for revenue it will lose when it is no longer producing power sold to the Sebree smelter. In October, Big Rivers was granted a rate adjustment to compensate for lost revenue from the Hawesville smelter.
In an effort to improve job growth for existing and new employers across the state, the state of Kentucky is making workforce services available in one centralized location.
Governor Steve Beshear laid out the details of the ‘WorkSmart Kentucky’ initiative Monday. The program involves matching employers with available workforce resources.
“Qualifying companies within the Commonwealth will be eligible for recruitment and job screening services at no cost. In addition, flexible grant funding will be available to offset the cost of customized and in house training needs,” said Beshear.
WorkSmart Kentucky is a partnership of the state’s Economic Development, Workforce Development, and Labor Cabinets along with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The governor says the new program fits in well with the state’s emphasis on health care and educational improvements.
Two Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development.
Under legislation from Republican Representatives Richard Heath and Ken Imes, hotels and other private developments could be built in public parks, with the state's permission.
But Imes says the bill isn’t about privatization.
“We’re not trying to privatize parks. Basically, I like to use the word ‘franchise.’ What I’m trying to do is save our parks system in Kentucky. It’s deteriorating rapidly through nobody’s fault other than we just can’t keep ‘em up.”
The previous state budget slashed the parks budget by over eight percent, which led to shorter park operating hours across the commonwealth.
Imes says his bill could open the door to private management of some state parks, which he says would reduce their operating cost to taxpayers.
A report from the federal government shows some good news for Kentucky enterprise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the state led the country in new businesses created during the second quarter of of 2013, the most recent data available.
Governor Steve Beshear's office says almost 6,700 new businesses opened in Kentucky during that quarter, many of them so-called "micro-enterprises", or businesses with five or fewer employees. The number represents an increase of more than 6% from the same period a year earlier.
Kentucky ranked second nationally by percentage in new businesses opened during the first quarter of 2013, third during the last quarter of 2012 and fourth during the third quarter of 2012.
A federal appeals court has reinstated a 76-year-old old ban on grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers selling wine and liquor in Kentucky after finding the law doesn't violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in 2012 to lift the restriction.
Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote for the court that the state "indisputably maintains a legitimate interest" in reducing access to high-alcohol content products.
A Louisville convenience store, Maxwell's Pic-Pac, and the Food with Wine Coalition challenged the ban in a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2011. The plaintiffs said the law treated them differently from package liquor stores simply because they sold food and other staples.
A Japanese company has announced plans to acquire the producer of Jim Beam bourbon.
Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan, has agreed to purchase Beam Incorporated for $16 billion.
The Courier-Journal reports that under a deal approved by leadership at both companies, the current Beam management team would continue to lead the business from Beam headquarters outside Chicago, with Jim Beam maintaining its distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.
Beam Incorporated owns many of the most famous names in the world of bourbon, including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Bookers, and Old Grand-Dad.
The company’s portfolio also includes brands of vodka, rum, tequila, as well as Irish and Scotch whiskies.
The acquisition of Beam Incorporated by Suntory Holdings is expected to finalized in the second quarter of this year.
A Bowling Green-built auto continues its streak of awards.
The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, made at the General Motors plant in Warren County, has been named North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show.
The Stingray has already won best car of the year honors from Automobile and Autoweek magazines.
The press preview days for the North American International Auto Show kick off with the awards. The announcements came Monday morning at Cobo Center in Detroit.
The truck of the year winner is the Chevrolet Silverado.
The Chevy sweep came after General Motors made the most appearances on this year’s list finalists. Others included the Cadillac CTS and Mazda3. Truck/utility finalists included the Acura MDX and Jeep Cherokee.
Forty-eight automotive journalists vote on winners from the list of finalists.