WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (7/31/13) - Few people are aware that 2013 is an anniversary of sorts for Webster County, KY. This year marks the 125 year since commercial coal production first began here, and it’s importance to the people of Webster County is greater today than ever before.
Records of coal mining in Webster County date back to before the Civil War, but according to The Kentucky Encyclopedia, it wasn’t until 1888 that commercial coaling began in earnest with the establishment of The Providence Coal Mining Company. In the years that followed The Louisville & Nashville Railroad (CSX) and the Illinois Central Railroad established rail lines in the county to transport coal. Mining has been an integral part of Webster County ever since.
According to Kentucky Coal Facts (KCF), a publication of the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet and the Department for Energy Development and Independence, 24.1 percent of Webster County residents are employed directly by the coal industry. (Leslie County was the only Kentucky county that had a higher percentage.) 707 workers are employed directly by Webster County Mines. That is 587 underground miners, 41 surface miners, 51 prep plant employees and 27 office employees.
But that 24.1 percent is only a portion of the Webster County residents who make their money from the coal industry. It doesn’t count trucking companies, contract laborers, mine inspectors or even factory workers whose jobs were created to serve the industry. It also doesn’t reflect the financial impact of those workers’ tax dollars or the coal severance money that comes back to the county.
The Webster County Fiscal Court received $975,700 directly during the last fiscal year in coal severance dollars. Much of this money goes to paving and maintaining roads in and around the county.
The more than 650 acre 4-Star Industrial Park located on the Webster-Henderson County Line, home to the $40 million Columbia Sportswear distribution center, was funded through the Local Government Economic Development Fund (LGEDF) from revenue collected through coal severance taxes.
Other projects funded at least in part by coal severance money include the purchase of new fire trucks, upgrades to water and sewer systems and construction of the new fire station in Clay.
Despite Webster County’s dependence on coal, KCF reported a 22 percent decrease in jobs at Kentucky coal mines during 2012, or roughly 4,028 jobs. Only 91.4 million tons of coal was mined in the state during that time, the lowest amount since 1965.
“Recent EPA regulations have already taken a harsh toll on coal-fueled electricity,” said Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, President and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). “So far this year, EPA regulations have played a major role in the announced closure of 288 coal plants in 32 states. This is equivalent to shutting down the entire electricity supply of the state of New York. Further regulation could force even more plant closures.”
A Duke University study published in the March 19 edition of Environmental Science & Technology, estimates that 65 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants will close, mainly due to the increased cost of keeping up with governmental regulations. Fewer coal plants means fewer coal miners.
“If the administration fails to recognize the environmental progress the industry has made and continues to adopt more regulations, coal power could cease to exist which would be devastating for our economy,” Duncan added.
Everyone knows that mining comes with risks, but throughout the county’s long relationship with the industry, there have been nine recorded ‘disasters’.
Two of the events were national news. On April 8, 1917, 62 miners were killed in an explosion at West Kentucky No. 7 mine in Clay. Then on July 14, 1939, 28 men died at the Duvin Mine explosion in Providence.
Interesting facts about Webster County coal
The Seminole Power Plant, located near Palatka, FL, was the largest single consumer of coal shipped from Webster County in 2012, and helped make Florida the largest market for Webster County coal. Kentucky represented the second largest market for Webster County coal in 2012, with coal delivered to six different power plants across the Commonwealth.
Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi also received shipments of Webster County coal during the year.
KCF reported that $88,157,279 of coal severance tax dollars were returned to Western Kentucky counties in 2012. $975,500 went directly to Webster County during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
J-E News Editor
Copyright 2013 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
|< Prev||Next >|