There was a slight drop in both the eastern and western Kentucky coalfields, but western Kentucky still produced slightly more coal—50.2 percent of the total production.
The data estimates there are 12,342 coal miners employed in the state—the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1927. That number represents a loss of 851 jobs, but the losses weren’t even among the coalfields. Eastern Kentucky lost jobs, while Western Kentucky’s coal industry grew slightly.
The state says Kentucky's coal jobs have dropped to the lowest level in the more than 85 years that the state has kept records of the number.
The Energy and Environment Cabinet says eastern Kentucky mines cut 916 jobs from April through June, while western Kentucky mines added 65 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the jobs lost in eastern Kentucky followed steep declines in 2012.
The cabinet said the number of people working at coal mines and facilities statewide dropped to 12,342 as of July, the lowest number since 1927.
The report also said eastern Kentucky coal production has dropped more than 41 percent in two years.
The Speaker of the Kentucky House and a bipartisan group of 50 House members have penned a letter to President Obama, expressing their concern over what they call the administration’s “unfair attack on coal.”
The letter—written by House Speaker Greg Stumbo—says the lawmakers are concerned about the President’s recent speeches about further limits to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The letter says coal in Kentucky “is a way of life”, and that coal had a $10 billion economic impact in the state in 2010.
The lawmakers write that “promising initiatives that should satisfy both sides of the climate debate are essentially left in the research lab, while the environmental impact of other major energy sources is minimized by comparison.”
Environmental advocates, on the other hand, want the President to take a tougher stance on coal, and hope the E.P.A will soon enforce tough new carbon pollution limits on coal plants.
The pro-coal letter was signed by 50 Kentucky House members, including Owensboro Democrats Tommy Thompson and Jim Glenn, Butler County Republican C.B. Embry, and Bowling Green Republican Jim DeCesare.
Sierra Club organizer for the western Kentucky region Thomas Pearce says his group and others want the Environmental Protection Agency to start enforcing tough new standards for coal-fired power plants.
Pearce says under current rules, coal plant operators don't even feel like they have to hide what they're doing.
A Kentucky coal company must withdraw a lawsuit it filed against a former worker who complained he was discriminated against, an administrative court in Washington has ruled.
Armstrong Coal filed a lawsuit in Muhlenberg County in August against Reuben Shemwell, who was fired from the company's Parkway Mine in 2011.
Shemwell had already taken his own legal action against the company by filing a federal discrimination complaint, arguing that he was let go for complaining about safety hazards. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has said Armstrong Coal's suit violated the section of a federal law designed to protect miners who file discrimination complaints.
The company accused Shemwell of wrongfully using civil proceedings, and said Shemwell was terminated for using his phone too much on the job.
The Henderson Gleaner reports that United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts was one of 14 people arrested at Tuesday's rally in Henderson featuring current and former coal miners.
The group was arrested after staging a sit-down in the middle of the intersection at First and Main Streets following the 90 minute rally at the Henderson County courthouse.
The Gleaner estimates a crowd of around 2,000 showed up for the rally against recent actions by Patriot Coal Corp. Patriot announced it was cutting pension payments to thousands of retirees, something upheld last week by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Miners and their supporters accuse Patriot's parents companies, Peabody Energy Corp., and Arch Coal, of spinning off Patriot and shifting the pension packages of former workers to the new company, knowing it would eventually go bust.
A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.
Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.
"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.
Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.
"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a $5.2 million grant for out-of-work coal miners in eastern Kentucky.
The grant will fund re-employment services for miners who have been laid off. A statement from the Labor Department Monday says the funding will also help spouses of coal miners in the region who are looking to re-enter the workforce.
This grant was awarded to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. The program will train out-of-work miners and spouses to work in other industries in the region including business services, construction and health care.
The Office of Surface Mining has awarded Kentucky a $40 million grant to eliminate environmental hazards caused by past coal mining.
The money will go to the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands
The grants go to 28 coal-producing states annually. They're funded by a fee on mined coal and are intended to repair unstable slopes, eliminate acid mine drainage and restore damaged water supplies.
Kentucky Natural Resources Commissioner Steve Hohmann said the grant money has been used in past years to close mine shafts and portals, put out mine fires, eliminate dangerous highwalls and subsidence and to provide drinking water to residents in mining communities.
Union-backed coal miners in Kentucky and surrounding states are protesting a coal company’s bankruptcy proceedings they say jeopardizes pension and health care benefits for some 20-thousand retirees and dependents. Miners were picketing Wednesday outside Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis.
Two charter buses bound for St. Louis left early Wednesday morning from western Kentucky to join the protest led by the United Mine Workers of Amercia.
Peabody Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal companies and one of the companies the union accuses of orchestrating business deals that bankrupted Patriot Coal.