The Kentucky Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides teaching materials and games for Kentucky schools designed to promote the image of the state's coal industry. According to tax and corporate records obtained by the Kentucky Herald-Leader, the organization is "run out of the Lexington office of the Kentucky Coal Association" by Bill Caylor, president of the association. The phone number listed on the group's website, as of mid-May 2008, was the same as for the Kentucky Coal Association.
Defending the Coal Industry
The Herald-Leader story reported that the foundation's web site described mountaintop removal mining as "simply the right thing to do -- both for the environment and for the local economy -- a true win-win." But after the Herald-Leader began investigating the Kentucky Foundation, the web site's content was changed at the direction of state officials to appear more neutral.
Funding for the Kentucky Foundation comes out of $400,000 in state funds designated for promoting coal. The Herald-Leader story reported that "Gov. Steve Beshear and a legislative committee have approved adding $17,500 to this year's $100,000 contract for the Kentucky Foundation so it can conduct a study showing the economic benefits of coal mining to the state. A retired University of Kentucky economist will be hired for the task."
Bill Caylor told the Herald-Leader, "The environmentalists throw out a lot of negative stuff, like kids who are suffering from asthma because they breathe particulate matter from living near a coal-fired power plant, or deaths caused on the roads by big coal trucks... We're trying to counteract that."
The web site discounted the environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal: "Only the topmost portion of the mountain is mined and generally leveled for the maximum recovery of coal. What's left is flatter, more useful land on the top of the mountain."
According to the Herald-Leader, funding for the Kentucky's coal promotion programs originated in 1994, after the legislature voted to fund nature preservation with funds from taxes paid by property owners on coal, oil and natural gas left underground. To quell coal industry displeasure over the nature preservation funding, the legislature then directed the governor to use $400,000 from the same source "for the purpose of public education of coal-related issues."
The coal industry then set up non-profit educational groups to receive the state grants.
The other major non-profit is Coal Education Development and Resource (CEDAR), which is run out of the office of the Coal Operators and Associates. In 2008, the Kentucky Foundation will receive $117,500 and CEDAR will receive $193,000.
CEDAR's mission is "to carry a positive message about the coal industry to Eastern Kentucky's children," according to the group. On its Web site, CEDAR includes "human interest stories" about its classroom work. One story involves an elementary school student who enjoyed preparing her entry for CEDAR's regional Coal Fair even as her relatives debated whether to let the family's property be leased by a coal company for mining.
CEDAR's website contains "human interest stories" about coal intended for classroom use. According to the site, after one student and her family "completed her Coal Fair project, they were ... subsequently able to convince the other family members that leasing their property to the coal company for the purpose of mining would be in everyone's best interest."
E-mail: kca AT kentuckycoal.com
- John Cheves, "Taxes help promote mining: Coal industry gets $400,000 a year," Lexington Herald-Leader, May 15, 2008.
- "Mining Associations -- South East", MiningUSA.com, accessed May 2008.