A new report echoes what those of us defending Kentucky’s energy sector already know: Appalachia’s coal mining industry is in dire need of a respite from the EPA’s onslaught of unilateral mandates designed to specifically target eastern Kentucky.
According to West Virginia-based Downtown Strategies, Appalachian coal production is set to fall from 185 million tons in 2011 to 128 million tons by 2020, a 31 percent drop. The report specifically mentions tougher federal regulations being enforced by the Obama Administration as a reason for Appalachia’s downturn. The EPA’s infamous blockage of 40 mining permits and the ensuing derailment of nearly 4,000 jobs is also to blame.
What’s worse, in no small part due to the EPA-induced Appalachia downturn, coal mining jobs in Kentucky are at their lowest level since the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet started keeping track of them in 1950. There were only about 13,000 coal mining jobs in Kentucky for the first quarter of 2013, down by nearly 1,000 since the first quarter of 2012, and down by nearly 6,000 since a year and a half ago.
Yes, competing natural gas prices and more lucrative coal fields in western Kentucky and Wyoming have played a heavy hand in Appalachia’s downfall. But the EPA is trying to crystallize the depressed state of our energy sector so that it can never rise again when market conditions turn.
Leave it to a federal bureaucracy to kick a politically incorrect industry when it’s down.