Last updated: November 25. 2013 4:15PM - 742 Views
Rep. Fitz Steele

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Imagine working your whole life in an industry that has been the life blood of your community, family and heritage.

You devoted your life to that career, stoically managing the good times with the bad because you were proud of the work and the economic benefits it provided you and your family.

But slowly, little by little, the work you did became questioned, then demonized by the media, environmental groups, politicians and pundits who attacked your livelihood in ways usually reserved for criminals and outlaws.

It’s hard for you to think of something like that happening, but that’s exactly what has taken place in the coal mining industry and our coal miners are bearing the brunt.

From Washington to New York to our own urban Kentucky areas, coal has been under attack and there’s no letting up. Natural gas is the favored energy source because right now – and mark those words “right now” – it is cheaper to burn than coal.

Thousands of jobs have been lost and people all over Eastern Kentucky are hurting. New job cuts were announced just recently and that means more people will sit down at the Thanksgiving table and around their Christmas tree with heavy hearts and worried minds.

This is why I got so indignant at a recent meeting in Frankfort where coal severance dollars were discussed. Coal mining - the very same maligned industry everyone loves to hate – is responsible for more than $500 million in coal severance projects that laid water and sewer lines, built industrial parks, funded college scholarships and hundreds of other economic development initiatives throughout Eastern Kentucky.

But that’s about to end. As the pressure to kill coal mining has mounted our mines are shutting down, coal severance dollars are dwindling and the consequences of this snowball effect are upon us.

I used strong and dire language in that committee meeting warning that the 2014 legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly would be brutal.

Programs and projects will be cut because coal severance dollars are not at the level they have been over the last decade and I predicted those cuts will have a trickle-down effect like we’ve never seen before.

My heart breaks for the men and women facing their future without a paycheck and for their children who will be the innocent victims of further economic upheaval brought on by this madness.

But Eastern Kentuckians are made of strong stuff and we will survive. We will sit down at our holiday tables with our families and thank the Lord for the blessings He has bestowed upon us, even in these troubling times.

And I believe more than one of us will pray that sanity will return to those in power and they will realize we need to keep coal alive and burning in Kentucky.

After all, it is the season for miracles.

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