News Around the State

Ky. has fewer coal jobs than when Trump took office

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Despite promises to reinvigorate the coal industry, Kentucky has fewer coal jobs today than when President Donald Trump took office two years ago.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports coal employment averaged 6,550 in Kentucky in the first quarter of 2017 when Trump was sworn in, according to the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. The estimated average in the July-through-September quarter this year was 6,381.

The number of coal jobs has gone up and down from quarter to quarter in Kentucky, but overall there has been no sustained increase. Numbers have remained far below 2011 when Kentucky coal jobs topped 18,000.

“It ain’t happened like they said it would,” said Martin County Judge-Executive Kelly Callaham.

Callaham said one mine has recently hired some people in Martin County. Employment in the most recent quarter stood at 61, compared to more than 200 in early 2017, according to state records.

Nationally, there were about 1,900 more coal jobs in October than when Trump took office. One reason Kentucky hasn’t seen an uptick is because the state has relatively little of the type of coal used in making steel. Metallurgical coal has been in demand overseas, and states with more of it, like West Virginia, have seen an increase in mining jobs.

Coal employment in Kentucky has been stable since mid-2016, fluctuating between 6,300 and 6,600 jobs, according to the cabinet’s reports. The industry credits Trump for stopping the big job losses that began in 2012.

“I think that we definitely would’ve gone down further,” said Tyler White, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projections through 2040 show a gradual decrease in production in Central Appalachia, the region that includes eastern Kentucky. But production is expected to increase in the region that includes western Kentucky.

Studies have shown the biggest factor in the decline of coal is the rise in natural gas.

Police: Child shoots, wounds self while hunting with family

SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky State Police say a 7-year-old boy shot and wounded himself while hunting deer with family in McCreary County.

WKYT-TV reported Saturday that state police say the child suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting. His condition is unclear. Police say the child and his grandfather were leaving the hunting area when the child attempted to remove the gun that was slung over his shoulder.

They say that’s when the boy accidentally fired the gun and shot himself in the back. They say the boy’s grandfather then took him to a Somerset hospital where staff called 911 and the boy was flown to another hospital.

Police are investigating and say charges aren’t likely.

Campaign helps military members get home for the holidays

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The distillery that produces Jack Daniel’s whiskey is working with a military support group to make sure military service members and their families can celebrate the holidays at home.

For the eighth year, the distillery in Tennessee is teaming with the Armed Services YMCA for the “Operation Ride Home” campaign. It provides financial assistance to active duty junior-enlisted military members and their families to travel home during the holidays.

Distillery officials say since the campaign began, 6,410 service members and their relatives have been assisted. Jack Daniel’s says it once again donated $100,000 to kick off the campaign.

Military members have been able to travel to 47 states thanks to the program.

Jack Daniel’s is the flagship brand of Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp.

Two-headed snake on exhibit at Salato Center

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A rare, two-headed copperhead snake is on display at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort.

The center says the snake will be shown to the public until Nov. 21, when it closes for the winter.

The snake is only a month old and is on display from 10 a.m to 4 p.m every Tuesday through Saturday. The center closes seasonally each year to allow the staff to maintain and update exhibits and facilities.

During this year’s closure, center staff plan to expand the existing indoor snake exhibit. The center is located off U.S. 60 in Frankfort. A bronze deer statue marks the entrance of the main Kentucky Fish and Wildlife campus.

Catholic bishop working on transparency in sex abuse cases

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — A Catholic bishop in Kentucky says his diocese is working to be more transparent about how sex abuse allegations are handled.

The move comes a month after the Bishop William Medley of the Diocese of Owensboro announced the diocese received 66 sexual abuse allegations against 27 priests since 1937, the year the diocese was founded.

Medley told The Messenger-Inquirer last week that a panel is reviewing the list of priests to determine if those names should be made public.

He made the comments after holding four “listening sessions” to hear concerns about reports of sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Medley said he heard sadness and anger from those who participated and wants to work on better communication with parishioners.

Texas man sentenced for dumping hazardous waste in Ky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Texas man was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for improperly disposing of hazardous electronic waste at a Central Kentucky recycling business.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports 63-year-old Kenneth Gravitt, of Austin, Texas, formerly operated Global Environmental Services, with facilities in Georgetown, Winchester and Cynthiana.

The business was supposed to recycle cathode ray tubes, but it took in more waste than it could handle and began dumping it at a landfill and in a hole behind the Georgetown facility, according to the lawsuit.

Disposal of the tubes is regulated by the federal government because they contain lead, which is toxic. The business was supposed to remove the lead and take it to a smelter or approved recycler.

Gravitt’s attorneys blamed employees and said he was unaware of the problem.

“He would have never sanctioned illegal disposal,” the attorneys said in one motion.

But prosecutors rejected that theory and argued that Gravitt was simply greedy.

“The money was too good to turn down,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

It will likely cost taxpayers several million dollars to clean up the contamination, U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan Jr. said in a news release.

“We have these prohibitions for a reason: they protect the environment, public health, public funds, and the safety of people in our community,” Duncan said.

In addition, two warehouse owners who provided space to Gravitt face bankruptcy if the government doesn’t provide a bailout for cleanup.

Gravitt was sentenced Friday in federal court in Lexington.