State Rep.Fitz Steele-D made an appearance at the Harlan Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday to update the chamber on the business outlook for the area.
According to Steele, there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for the coal industry.
Steel represents District 84, which includes part of Harlan County.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel because when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, that coal will burn,” said Steele. “Germany’s done away with renewables… renewables cost too much, and they don’t work.”
According to Steele, Germany is building 26 new coal burning plants at the present time.
“That’s why those German banks are coming in here and helping these locals that want to go back in the coal business or purchase other coal companies out because they see it and they know it’s coming,” said Steele. “Germany’s going to buy this coal that rolls out of these hills. It’s a straight shot for CSX to go from here to Charleston, S.C. They have more than doubled that port in Charleston S.C. in the past five years and are adding on to it as we speak. So there is light at the end of the tunnel for our coal business.”
Steele mentioned Harlan has only a few coal companies in operation at present.
Director of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Chad Harpole pointed out a recent deal with India.
“Our chairman, Jim Booth, announced a deal with India to export $19 billion worth of coal from eastern Kentucky to India,” said Harpole. “The biggest obstacle right now that I see is… the permits that are held up right now by the EPA to mine the resource.”
According to Harpole, in order to sell the coal there has to be an assurance the coal can be produced.
“You’ve got coal mines in eastern Kentucky that’s permits were issued pre-2008 that are going to be expiring in the next year or two, and they don’t have a permit to replace it,” said Harpole.
According to Harpole, the international market requires steady production.
“I think once there’s stability in the permitting situation, you’ll see export coal go through the roof,” said Harpole.
In other chamber activity, Harpole presented Steele with a token of appreciation from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“The legislative session just ended in March and each year the chamber passes out some awards to legislators that went above and beyond to make the business climate better in the state. I’m very pleased that representative Steele is the winner of this award,” said Harpole.
Harpole presented Steele with a commemorative baseball bat in recognition of his work.
“The reason he’s getting it this year is he sponsored a bill…that pushes back at the EPA a little bit,” said Harpole.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext.113, firstname.lastname@example.org