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Herald-Leader: Coal always angling for breaks

February 16, 2010

In today’s editorial in the Messenger-Inquirer, we came out against a proposed bill that would allow coal trucks to block public roadways for up to an hour without a permit.

Allen Cobb of Nortonville climbs across the roof of his cab to retrieve his insulated containers Monday morning after the coal truck he was driving turned over at Kentucky 85 and U.S. 431 in McLean County in 2007. (M-I photo)

The state should support its coal industry, but not when that comes with a sacrifice in public safety. That guideline should be followed in this case and in others.

The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s editorial board tackled the same issue in its editorial today, and also made note of the recent push by lawmakers from coal states including Kentucky to continue federal subsidies for the coal industry.

On the issue of coal trucks, the Herald-Leader explained that the explanation by the coal truck bill’s sponsor that the legislation was needed “to mine coal and build roads” didn’t hold water.

From the editorial

It’s bad enough that Kentuckians must share the public roadways with legally overweight coal trucks. The permit fees do not begin to cover the costs of repairing the damage to roads and bridges from loads that weigh 23 tons more than other trucks are allowed to carry. The public also pays a high price in the stress and tragedies that come from run-ins with these behemoths.

Even by the standards we’ve come to expect from the coal caucus, HB 409 is preposterous. The state has long established procedures when a road needs to be closed, usually at night, to accommodate an oversized load. These requirements haven’t prevented Kentucky from being the third largest coal-producing state or building roads. And, yet, one of the bill’s sponsors is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Hubert Collins, a Democrat from Johnson County.

We’re seeing once again that coal’s most ardent supporters do as much harm as anyone to its image by always insisting that the industry can’t operate inside the rules — whether they’re environmental rules, the rules of the road or a free market.

The editorial goes on to say that the price of subsidizing coal goes beyond tax breaks and traffic concessions –

Markets work best when prices represent the true cost of a thing. The reason we’re dependent on oil that poisons our relations with the rest of the world and coal that poisons our water and air is because coal and oil have been artificially underpriced because of subsidies, direct and indirect, that come out of the public’s pockets.

Ultimately the cost of subsidizing oil and coal has been much more onerous than paying their true prices at the pump or on our electric bills would be.

After all these years of dependence, it’s no wonder the coal industry can’t stop squalling for more of the public teat and its political enablers can’t stop obliging.

Any thoughts?

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