The Kentucky Senate will likely restore funding to conduct coal mine inspections in the state budget. Currently, mines get six state inspections a year.
A previous draft of the budget cut the number to two. Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber will likely restore funding for six inspections. But that doesn't mean Stivers wants to keep the amount of money exactly the same. He says the House budget didn’t address the reduction in the number of coal mines, which he argues requires fewer inspections.
“They funded it at the level that it has been without recognition of closures and loss of jobs,” said Stivers. “So it’ll be a function of that, looking at closure and loss of jobs and seeing what’s actually out there.”
The Senate’s budget initially reduced the number of mandatory mine inspections from six per year to just two, prompting criticism from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, which said in a statement that further reductions in its budget would put coal miners at increased risk.
A state House panel has unanimously approved a bill to provide tax incentives to the ailing coal industry.
House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says his bill will permit tax breaks on machinery and manufacturing for coal-related companies. The Democrat says the breaks are similar to incentives enjoyed by car manufacturing plants in the state and reduce economic strain on the industry.
“Those are everything from sales tax credits on the materials, pieces and parts it takes to build an assembly line, or put the pieces and parts in whatever operation or manufacturer or industrial complex that it may be, whether it be at AK Steel in the Ashland area, whether it be at Toyota or Ford. That’s going on at Toyota and Ford as we speak,” said Adkins.
According to the New York Times, Kentucky gave nearly $570 million in incentives to the coal industry in 2012 alone.
Last year, coal jobs in Kentucky reached their lowest point since 1927, with over 2,300 jobs lost in 2013.
The involvement of a state representative in a major coal deal in Kentucky is raising some eyebrows. The $7 billion contract signed Wednesday creates a 25-year standing order to ship 9 million tons of Kentucky coal annually to India.