Kentucky’s coal production and employment dropped only slightly in 2014, but sharper declines are likely in the future.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet released its quarterly coal report for the fourth quarter of 2014 today. Preliminary data suggest the state produced 3.7 percent less coal in 2014 than in 2013. Coal employment declined by 2.8 percent over the same time period.
The declines are less stark than they were a year ago. In 2013, the Energy and Environment Cabinet estimated that the state had lost 2,300 coal jobs. In 2014, 317 jobs were lost. But these losses add to the troubles the coal industry has faced recently. The fourth quarter of 2014 is the 14th consecutive quarter where coal employment has declined in the state, and Eastern Kentucky’s coal production in 2014 was only about 41 percent of what it produced as recently as 2008.
This most recent quarterly report also doesn’t reflect the closure of two large Western Kentucky coal mines at the end of 2014. Patriot Coal closed its Highland and Dodge Hill mines on New Year’s Eve. Together, those mines accounted for 4.7 percent of Kentucky coal production in 2014, and employed 14 percent of Western Kentucky miners.