Kentucky’s coal industry shed more than 2,300 jobs in 2013, according to the latest numbers from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. And most of those losses were in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields.
The final 2013 quarterly coal report from the Energy and Environment cabinet wraps up a dismal year for the state’s coal industry. And for Eastern Kentucky, the quarter marks the 10th straight quarter of declining coal employment.
Since the first quarter of 2007, Eastern Kentucky has shed more than 6,000 coal jobs, or 45 percent. Coal production has dropped even more drastically; from 87 million tons to just under 40 million tons. During the same time period, coal production and employment have grown modestly in Western Kentucky.
A number of factors have made Eastern Kentucky coal less competitive over the past few years, including pollution controls that allow plants to burn higher sulfur coal, like that mined in Western Kentucky and Illinois. Other issues like increased regulations on coal mining and burning, coal’s decreased competitiveness compared to cheap natural gas and declining reserves have also hurt the industry.