Science news

A coal industry advocate told Kentucky lawmakers on Thursday that “coal is not a silver bullet” for the country’s energy needs, but said coal should still play a role as natural gas and renewable energy continue to grow.

Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said power companies should be rewarded for using coal as an energy source.

“Right now coal is not being compensated fairly for some of the attributes it has. For example, coal has a very, very secure fuel supply,” Bailey said during a legislative hearing on Thursday.

  New numbers from the first two quarters of this year show both coal production and employment are continuing to decline in Kentucky, despite President Donald Trump’s promises that miners would be going back to work.

A U.S. House committee has advanced a bill that would send a billion dollars for mine reclamation and economic development in coal communities.

A program aimed at making energy-saving improvements easier to finance is getting attention at Lexington City Hall. 

A council committee Tuesday began the process of setting up an Energy Project Assessment District.  

Attorney Jonathon Miller made a presentation to the council’s budget committee. 

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will allow Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities to raise their utility rates, but not as much as was agreed to in a settlement in April.

Work Completed on Fort Campbell Solar Array

Jun 15, 2017

Kentucky officials say they have completed work on the largest non-utility solar array in the state.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says the 5 megawatt array at Fort Campbell will produce enough electricity to power 463 homes.

The project is part of the military post's efforts to comply with the American Renewable Energy Act, which requires federal installations to draw at least 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.

The Appalachian Regional Commission says additional funding of nearly $16 million will help diversify economies in coal-mining communities in seven states. 

Kentucky is coal country, and is heavily reliant on the dirty fossil fuel for power. A study underway at Western Kentucky University is examining the effectiveness of a water-based clean coal solution.

The coal is treated with the solution at Big Rivers power plant in Ohio County, Kentucky. WKU partnered with Big Rivers and the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development to determine if the solution reduces carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen emissions.

Researchers at WKU are taking an enzyme from a mushroom and growing it in water. That solution is then sprayed on coal as it falls down a chute. The coal then sits for a few days before it’s burned.

U of L To Continue Research On Hemp As Alternative Fuel

May 17, 2017

The University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy is planting more hemp this year at the school’s Belknap Campus.

This is officially the center’s second hemp crop — the first was planted last August and yielded a few dozen pounds of plants. This year, there will be two different varieties of hemp growing, as well as kenaf. Kenaf is an African plant used for fiber and oils.

“Having the crops grow on campus actually raises awareness about the research that we have going on at Conn Center,” said assistant director Andrew Marsh.

Capturing carbon dioxide from power plants is, at least theoretically, a good way to reduce one of the top gases that contributes to climate change.

But in reality, it’s hard – and so far, inefficient.

Carbon capture pilot projects across the country have come and gone. But even though it’s technically over, the pilot project at one power plant in Central Kentucky remains. There, University of Kentucky researchers continue to test technology they say is cheaper and more efficient than others being tested around the country.

At Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Plant, near Danville, there’s a six-story open structure attached to one of the plant’s units. It’s a scaffolding-like maze of yellow, blue and silver metal.

Kunlei Liu stands under it, wearing a hardhat and safety glasses, ready to explain the intricate workings of the device.

Ex-Coal CEO Blankenship Back on Twitter, Blasting Manchin

May 10, 2017
Ashton Marra/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Former mine executive Don Blankenship Wednesday  jumped on Twitter, renewing his feud with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

As WEKU’s John Hingsbergen reports, it was on the day Blankenship was to finish a one-year prison sentence arising from a deadly mine explosion.     

Former Coal CEO Blankenship To Be Released From Prison

May 10, 2017

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is scheduled to be released from an Arizona halfway house on Wednesday after serving a year in federal prison.

Ky Grassroots Group Proposes Energy Plan

Apr 20, 2017

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a well-known grassroots social justice organization is proposing a long term energy plan.  

The report called, “Empower Kentucky” is described as a people’s plan to shape a just transition to a clean energy economy.  Josh Bills, a mechanical engineer from Berea and a KFTC member.  “The plan is long and detailed and full of recommendations and action steps that could be taken today by mayors, city councils, campuses, congregations, businesses, the state legislature, the public service commission, and utilities,” said Bills.

A report card issued by an advocacy group says solar jobs in Kentucky are still relatively few, but are growing. The assessment by The Solar Foundation found that there were 1,202 jobs last year in the solar industry in Kentucky, which represents a 20 percent growth from 2015.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities is switching to a different source of energy after more than 100 years of burning coal.

There’s a lot of talk - and hope - among some Kentucky residents that coal will make a comeback. But Owensboro Municipal Utilities says it’s seen the writing on the wall and coal will be completely phased over the next six years. 

Sonya Dixon is a spokeswoman for OMU.

“This is a monumental change in the way that OMU has done business. You know, we have burned coal for the last 117 years and obviously, this is a shift, but we feel it’s a positive one in the best interest of our customers.” 

Ky. Utility Crews Lend Support in Florida

Oct 5, 2016

In preparation for damage from Hurricane Matthew, Kentucky is joining many other states in sending electrical repair crews to Florida. 

Kentucky Utilities Spokesman Cliff Feltham says the 130 workers are contractors who normally work on construction, tree trimming, and serve as line crews.  He says these workers come from all across Kentucky. 

Feltham says sending support to Florida won’t mean diminished service for customers in the Commonwealth.  The KU representative says it’s difficult to say where workers will end up in Florida and how long they will stay.


PSC to Seek Public Input on Columbia Gas Rate Case

Sep 1, 2016

  Lexington area Columbia Gas customers will get a chance to offer comments regarding the utility’s latest rate increase request.  It comes through a state Public Service Commission public meeting.

Under the request by Columbia Gas, typical residential customers would see an $11 increase in their monthly bills.  The utility says the increase is needed to recover costs of ongoing system improvements including removal of older gas mains that could pose safety concerns.  

State PSC Approves Kentucky American Rate Settlement

Aug 23, 2016


The State Public Service Commission has approved a settlement in Kentucky American Water Company’s rate increase case.  The order amounts to slightly less than half of the amount requested by the utility.

The settlement means a typical residential customer will see a monthly increase of $3 dollars 60 cents.  The new rates take effect August 28th.  It amounts to a six and a half million dollar boost in annual revenue to Kentucky American. 

U.S. Energy Secretary Comes to Energy Forum in Lexington

Apr 21, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    The U.S. Secretary of Energy is stressing what he’s calling “flexibility” when it comes to the future use of coal as an energy source in this country.  Ernie Moniz led off a regional energy forum at the University of Kentucky Thursday.

Instead of speaking in terms of coal going away as a power source, Secretary Moniz says the emphasis should be on an innovative agenda.  He says that includes furthering carbon capture technologies at UK and other universities. 

Hundreds of Miners In Lexington for Rescue Competition

Sep 16, 2015

Pennsylvania miners donned gas masks and worked a 75-minute rescue scenario during the 2015 National Coal Mine Rescue, First Aid, Bench, and Preshift Competition.


People on both sides of the energy debate in Kentucky seem to agree that costs for the consumer are going to go up.  Clean energy and federal emissions standards were widely discussed this week at the 39th Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment.

Kentucky is receiving more than $264,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund 23 applications for improvements in energy efficiency.



Speculation has begun in Eastern Kentucky about a potentially large reserve of oil and natural gas trapped about two miles underground. If the Rogersville Shale is proven productive, it would be the region’s first major oil and gas play. This has excited the industry, but some residents are worried about the toll large-scale oil and gas production would take on human health and the environment.

Public Forum Aims to Answer Questions on Pipeline Proposal

Dec 30, 2014

In light of recent events surrounding the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline, an official in one central Kentucky county is hoping a community meeting on pipeline use will be informative and not confrontational.  Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and MarkWest are proposing to convert a pipeline that runs through Boyle County, from carrying oil and natural gas to natural gas liquids.  It's part of a 1000-mile conversion project being considered by federal regulators. 

Kentucky Awarded Millions from National Science Foundation

Aug 27, 2014
Stu Johnson / Weku News

A statewide effort to further the economy through funding energy research and attracting more students into STEM fields is getting a major financial boost.

Kentucky is one of six jurisdictions chosen to receive a five year research award from the National Science Foundation.

Erica Peterson

Kentucky has long been known for coal. But a new project unveiled Monday has the potential to let the commonwealth also be known for coal technology.

    The Kentucky Coal Association is questioning how recently announced EPA rules on emissions will impact climate change worldwide.  Association President Bill Bissett says shuttering all U.S. coal fired electrical plants would only impact three percent of carbon on the planet.  He says countries like India, China, Spain, Germany, and Russia continue to move forward with coal fired power plant production.  "We're not really gonna have an impact on climate change, like the president is wanting, because everyone else is moving toward coal," said Bissett.

Bill Seeks More Review for Windmill Proposals

Feb 13, 2014

A bill approved Thursday provides for more regulatory review for anyone seeking to start generating power by windmill.  

KU Seeking Approval for Solar Plant

Jan 31, 2014

Kentucky Utilities is asking for state approval to build a 36 million dollar solar power plant in central Kentucky.  If K-U’S request is granted by the State Public Service Commission, the facility would be built adjacent to the coal-fired complex already in place at the Burgin plant.  

Keeping Power Plants in Line with Federal Emission Regs

Nov 16, 2013

Kentucky lawmakers have been briefed on ongoing technological developments to make the state's coal-fired power-plants more in line with new federal emissions standards.  But , the effort may be more about keeping coal a viable source of energy for the state than it is about fixing the environment.