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Kentucky Had Its Lowest-Ever Quarter of Coal Production

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  Kentucky’s coal industry has recorded another dismal quarter, where both coal jobs and production have declined across the state.

In the second quarter of 2015, only 9,605 people were employed in the coal industry, down from a recent peak of more than 19,000 at the beginning of 2009. Kentucky also recorded the lowest-ever quarter of coal production, and the state’s quarterly coal report notes that the state is on track to mine less than 64 million tons of coal this year. As recently as 2008, the state’s coal mines produced almost twice that amount.

Eastern Kentucky used to be the commonwealth’s most productive coalfield, but it ceded that title last year. Western Kentucky now produces more coal, though there are still more working coal miners in Eastern Kentucky.

The future outlook for the industry is bleak, too.

Stricter federal regulations on pollution like mercury from coal-fired power plants, as well as low natural gas prices, have made it more economical for utilities to retire aging coal plants. Some will switch to natural gas. A lot of those plants are in the Southeast, and have bought coal from Kentucky coal mines. The report says that by the end of this year, one-third of the plants that used Kentucky coal in 2011 will have closed. Other closures are expected over the next few years.

Erica Peterson is a reporter and Kentucky Public Radio correspondent based out of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky.
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