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Public School Teachers Across the U.S. Press for More Education Investment by Energy Companies
Grassroots movements by teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are calling for coal, gas and oil companies to invest more in local education. The movement is rooted in the premise that tax policies favoring corporations and the wealthy have not been in communities’ best interests. “Shared prosperity and natural resource extraction tend not to go hand in hand,” noted one advocate for change.
Study: ‘The Easier Coal’ Has Already Been Mined in Central Appalachia
A new study that compiles data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission finds that low natural gas prices, stagnant demand for electricity, and rising production costs have driven the decline of mining in Kentucky and West Virginia. “In central Appalachian coal is deeper in the ground and the seams are thinner,” one expert said. “Because we’ve been mining coal for so long and so aggressively, we’ve already taken out all the easier to get coal.”
In West Virginia, programs like Refresh Appalachia, Reclaim Appalachia, and the Appalachian Bee Collective are helping former coal workers, and communities, create a path forward. "...the idea is to create a new generation of small-holding Appalachian farmers who will contribute to a larger agricultural community—one that’s appropriately scaled, diversified, and vertically integrated. "
Kentucky: ‘You Don't Recover From the Loss of 13,000 Coal Industry Jobs Since 2011 Overnight’
Coal production near Hazard, Ky., has dropped to about 4 million tons a year from 17 million tons a decade ago, and where there were once dozens of coal companies in the region there are now only seven. The labor-force participation rate is roughly 44 percent, compared to 70 percent annually. Economic diversification lags, and towns in the region are in dire financial condition. "We're still dealing with the aftermath of layoffs in the coal industry," said a spokesman for the Hazard-based Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. "You don't recover from the loss of 13,000 coal industry jobs [in eastern Kentucky] since 2011 overnight."
Kentucky: Public School Students Seek a Better Future
Letcher County, in east-central Kentucky, had a thousand coal miners a decade ago. “Today, there are just 28,” and the local economy is so battered that public schools are struggling to make ends meet. Student are beginning to openly advocate for progressive change and economic diversification.
Op-ed: ‘Our people must be the solution’
The president of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp. describes progress toward economic diversification in Eastern Kentucky, where data shows gains in career education, self-employment, and property-value assessments as education, entrepreneurship, and private-public partnerships begin to offset coal-industry losses. “Our people must be the solution,” writes the author.
Op-Ed: Three Trends That Suggest No Coal Comeback
Three distinct trends continue to work against the U.S. coal industry. One is a rapid rise of black lung among miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, where old coal seams that are increasingly difficult to tap are creating new health hazards, according to research by Stone Mountain Health Services. Two is national momentum toward retirement of the aging fleet of U.S. coal-fired electricity generation stations. Three is a Trump administration plan that is being crafted to bail out failing coal plants. “What seems clear from all three cases is that the coal industry isn’t coming back,” says the author.
Editorial: Diversify Kentucky’s Economy
A Kentucky newspaper, editorializing on the decline of the state’s coal-mining industry, calls for greater diversification of the region’s economy. The editorial acknowledges broad energy market changes and notes by way of example that the Big Sandy Power Plant in Lawrence County, one of the “largest and most dependable customer for coal mined in the eastern third of the state,” no longer burns coal. And it concedes that much of the region’s coal has gotten so costly to mine that the industry is no longer competitive.
Kentucky Coal Job Gains in 2017 Seen as Unsustainable
Even with a recent uptick in coal-industry jobs in Kentucky, analysts do not consider the gains sustainable. Even the federal government is skeptical: “The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that after an upturn in coal production in Central Appalachia in 2017, production in the region will generally decline.”
Study: ‘Tough Task Ahead’ for Coal Country
The Appalachian Regional Commission has published a study by researchers at the University of Tennessee and West Virginia University that documents “a vicious cycle at work” in the decline of the coal industry and its wide-ranging impact on local and regional economies. “Talk of bringing back coal is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done,” said the president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
$372 Million Lithium-Ion Battery Factory Will Help Diversify East Kentucky’s Economy
A California company plans to build a plant in East Kentucky to make batteries for the burgeoning electric-vehicle market. It will also move its headquarters to the area, bringing in a total of more than 1,000 jobs. State Sen. Ray Jones said the deal is “a game-changer not only for Pikeville and Pike County, but for the entire region.”
A Trend Toward Turning Former Mines Into Solar Sites
In a trend spanning Asia, Europe and the U.S., former coal-mine sites are being reclaimed as utility-scale solar electricity-generation farms. A project by Berkeley Energy Group to turn a strip mine in Kentucky into a solar power plant that could produce 50 to 100 megawatts of power by next year is mong the many examples. “Building solar power plants atop defunct coal plants has several advantages, including putting otherwise hard-to-use lands to productive use.”
A Kentucky Miner and an MIT Tech Researcher Talk
“Agriculture and large-scale manufacturing typically doesn't exist in mountainous areas, so we saw that there was earning potential equivalent to our mining jobs in the tech sector, and that there was a demand for tech workers and that that was a product we could produce here and export over fiber optic cable to the greater market in the world.”
Biggest Utility in Kentucky Sees Coal Accounting for Little of Its Future Electricity Generation
PPL, the company that owns Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric has published a transition analyst in which it sees natural gas and renewables accounting for 80 percent of its electricity: “Just by virtue of [economics], you’re going to have substantial reductions and when you look out to 2050, substantial retirements of our coal-fired units will have happened by then.”
A 22-District School Cooperative ‘Aims to Remake Coal Communities’
The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, which includes 22 school districts, is promoting new possibilities for a region that has been overly reliant on coal mining. “It’s called the resource curse in economics … When you have a company town, what tends to happen over time is you crowd out the potential of other industry to make a case for their future.”
New Job-Skills Initiative in Eastern Kentucky
The East Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute this week began classes aimed at teaching new job skills to former coal miners in Johnson County. “Officials said jobs in the manufacturing industry will pay the same or more as what former coal miners were making,” a local television station reports.
Op-Ed: Corporate Focus on Renewables in Kentucky
Kentucky manufacturers that include Toyota and GM are showing a growing preference for renewable-powered electricity, and so are retailers like Walmart and logistics companies like UPS. The trend has given rise to the possibility of a state “green-tariff” program that many large power users would likely support.
Kentucky’s McConnell ‘May Have Undercut’ Coal Industry With Appointments
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “may have undercut” the Trump administration’s proposed coal-industry bailout by confirming the appointments of two free-market regulators to a panel that will vote on the plan. One replaces a former McConnell aide, and the other has been a wind-industry lobbyist. Both “have vowed not to tilt electricity-market rules in favor any particular fuel.”
Kentucky Employment Stats Shows Persistence Weakness in Coal
The latest employment data from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet shows jobs weakness in coal. “We are stopping the bleeding, but it has not stopped,” said the president of the Kentucky Coal Association. “We’re starting to get to that flat-lining point.”
In Harlan County, Kentucky, 3 Municipalities Contemplate Consolidation
Three towns in Harlan County are exploring the possibility of merging into a single municipality as the area copes with the effects of having lost more than half its coal jobs since 2011. “It takes a lot of strong leadership to even have the discussion,” says a representative of the Kentucky League of Cities.