Senator Mitch McConnell blasted President Obama this week over his stand on climate change treaties. The Senator blamed the President again for his "War on Coal." He repeated the oft recited refrain that the President's policies are solely responsible for killing off coal jobs in Kentucky.
On the US House of Representatives side, the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers, (R-KY) held hearings to review the FY 2017 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday.
During the hearings, Rogers attacked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, there to testify about EPA budget requests for Fiscal Year 2016-2017. McCarthy was defending the EPA requests of $50 million to implement regulations that could lead to a further reduction in the use of coal to produce electricity.
In open meeting, Rep. Rogers tore into her testimony. Rep Rogers said, "... his Eastern Kentucky district lost 10,000 coal jobs since 2009." Rogers went on to explain how this affected unemployment rates and made them devastating to the region.
Records of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, show 15,668 coal jobs in Rep. Rogers region as of 2009. However, by the fourth quarter of 2015, the agency estimated that number at 5,077.This meant that in some counties the unemployment rates were over 21%.
Almost all of the major coal companies operating in Kentucky have either bankrupted or are considering bankruptcy. The newest coal mega company to be thinking about corporate bankruptcy is Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company.
The news comes as Peabody's stock closed last week on Wednesday at a new low of $2.16 which is a 46% drop over the past six months.
In a press release, Peabody pointed to fact hard coal market conditions, which forced coal prices per ton down to $40 per ton as opposed to good market pricing of $200 a ton in 2008. This was the primary reason for considering bankruptcy restructuring.
Add to this situation the impact of natural gas. Natural gas production is on track to become America's primary energy source. Forecast for 2016 puts natural gas production at a 33% of the energy market as opposed to coal production at a 32% part of the national energy market.
What Kentucky Congressmen don't want to hear is that Kentucky coal is no longer what industry wants. It is dirty, over cost production, and no longer in favor as a factor in global climate warming debates.
In short, being on the side of King Coal in Kentucky is like being cheerleaders for Big Tobacco in the 1990s. These were and are policy stances that are on the wrong side of history and Kentucky's future.