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Study: Kentucky Coal Costs Outweigh the Benefits

June 29, 2009

BEREA, Ky. - The cost of coal mining to the state of Kentucky outweighs the benefits, according to a new study from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), which finds that in 2006 coal mining cost the state 115 million dollars more in subsidies and expenditures than was collected in taxes and fees. The president of MACED, Justin Maxson, says the findings are cause for concern, given the historic decline in coal-mining employment and the future challenges of a clean-energy economy.

"Coal isn't going to save the economies of Eastern Kentucky. If it were going to, it would have happened by now, so the state has to take seriously a much more thoughtful and aggressive economic and development plan in the region, beyond coal."

The report recommends that state leaders examine the way coal is taxed and subsidized in Kentucky, and pursue economic diversification, particularly for the state's coalfield communities. Maxson says the state also needs to make a comparison of future investments in coal to investments in energy alternatives.

"Coal is expensive to the state, we spend a lot of money supporting it, and we have got to think differently in the future as the cost of coal goes up, the cost of energy goes up; we need to invest more in renewable energy and energy alternatives."

Coal industry leaders disagree with the report, saying the economic impact of the coal industry is positive, as it provides jobs and is an incentive for businesses and manufacturers to come to Kentucky. But Maxson says less than one percent of all employed Kentuckians work in coal mining, and he adds that the eastern Kentucky coal counties remain among the nation's poorest.

The report is at www.maced.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY