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Group Says Coal Isn't A Cash Cow for KY

July 6, 2010

BEREA, Ky. - Some may argue coal is king in Kentucky because it offers good-paying jobs in a number of areas where residents may not have them otherwise, but one group says there are costs associated with coal that few stop to think about. Jason Bailey, research and policy director with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, says a study his group did on the issue examined areas where the state has to spend money because of the industry.

One such area is where the rubber meets the road.

"There's the damage to the roads and bridges of the state associated with hauling millions of tons of coal each year. Those costs are really substantial."

He says another area where coal is quite costly is in the regulatory process.

"It has these impacts on workers' safety and health, on public health, on the environment, on the air and water, and because of that, there has to be a huge regulatory system."

Bailey says the coal industry has seen declines in both production and employment in the past two decades and public policy makers should take that into consideration when weighing its importance in the future.

"Does it make sense to continue to focus our subsidies on an energy source that is both declining and has some negative impacts, or does it begin to make sense to invest in new and cleaner ways of providing energy?"

Bailey says the report also looks at tax incentives and subsidies Kentucky put in place over the years, not only to produce coal, but to subsidize research and development for new coal technologies.

The Obama administration has recommended states raise taxes on coal companies to help regulate surface mining. The industry calls that idea 'a job killer,' that would ultimately raise energy prices.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY