Local/Regional News
5:51 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Special Kentucky Coal License Plate Reaches 50,000

FRANKFORT, Ky.  Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear paid homage to the coal industry Wednesday by marking a milestone in sales of special license plates.

The state has issued 50,000 of the "Friends Of Coal" license plates to Kentucky motorists in the past two and a half years. That's more than any other specialty plates in Kentucky except for collegiate plates honoring the state's universities.

"Coal mining, as I've said many times before, is one of the cornerstones of Kentucky's economy," Beshear said during a Capitol press conference. "More than 19,000 people work directly at our mine sites with several times more than that number holding jobs indirectly related to the industry."

Beshear has been one of the coal industry's biggest cheerleaders, criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for not approving new permits for mines in Kentucky.

The second-term Democrat touted Kentucky's coal industry for helping keep electric rates low, which, he said, helps the state to attract manufacturing plants.

"There's no doubt that Kentucky coal keeps this state's economy strong and also keeps this nation's economy running," he said.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett praised Beshear and a group of more than 12 coalfield lawmakers who attended the press conference for supporting the coal industry.

Bissett said the industry has been pleased that so many people have shown support for the coal industry by choosing the black, specialty license plates.

"I think people do it for a number of reasons," Bissett said. "Some do it because we work in coal. Some do it because they have family members who work in the coal industry. Some do it, I think, because they're from the coalfields or previously from the coalfields and have that cultural connection to coal."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said coalfield residents appreciate the mining industry for creating flat land that can be used for residential, industrial and recreational development.

In a rebuff to mountaintop mining critics, Stumbo said he lives on one such development that, besides houses, also has a golf course, riding stables, even a recreational ball park.

"To the people who say let's save mountains: Go buy one," Stumbo said. "There's a bunch of them for sale. And if you own it, and you don't want it mined, guess what, it's not going to be mined that way."