Talking Dirt at EKU April 9th

We wanted to spread the word about this great event ($5 donation suggested) at Eastern on April 9th -- bring yoru friends!

“The Higher Ground series describes in nuanced tones and local accents the hard realities of life here in Harlan.” –The New York Times



CONTACT: Robert Gipe, director, Appalachian Program, Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, Cumberland, KY. (606) 589-3130 or //us [dot] mc1620 [dot] mail [dot] yahoo [dot] com/mc/compose?to=robert [dot] gipe [at] kctcs [dot] edu" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">robert [dot] gipe [at] kctcs [dot] edu. More information on Facebook here.

The Center for Appalachian Studies at Eastern Kentucky University will present an original community musical drama, Higher Ground 3: Talking Dirt, Monday April 9th, 2012 at 6:00PM in the auditorium at the Student Services Building on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Talking Dirt features a cast of forty musicians and actors from Harlan County, Kentucky and includes twelve musical numbers including soul, country, folk, bluegrass, and gospel songs as well as new songs by the production company. The play explores issues related to mining and decisions about the land. The play includes Kentucky coalfield migration stories, stories of young people deciding whether or not to leave the coalfields, and stories related to coalfield ethnic diversity. Talking Dirt also examines the way people talk to one another, the stories that are easily told, and those that are sometimes avoided. The house band for Higher Ground 3: Talking Dirt is The Kudzu Killers, who will also do a half-hour of music immediately before the curtain.

Herald Leader: Set endowment for coal counties

Today's Herald Leader features an editorial supportive of reforming the current coal severance tax system.  We agree -- investing severance tax now in a permanet trust fund will help provide a longer term financial resource for eastern Kentucky, as we transition to a different economic future. 

From the HL:

Set endowment for coal counties

State government's cupboard is so bare the House-Senate budget negotiations resemble "two mules fighting over a turnip," says House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

State revenue will rebound with the economy, especially if the two mules ever agree on tax reform.

But the outlook for one revenue source — the severance tax — is not so good.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, predicts a steep decline in coal production in Central Appalachia, including Kentucky, from 175 million tons to 77 million tons, between now and 2020.

The decline will be driven by diminishing coal reserves, cheaper coal in other parts of the country, a shift to natural gas and other energy sources and stiffer environmental and health regulations.

It will be especially hard on counties such as Perry and Pike where 20 percent of private sector jobs and 30 percent of payroll are directly tied to mining.

Clean Energy Opportunity Act: Report from the Hearing

Yesterday supporters of Kentucky's Clean Energy Opportunity Act came to Frankfort for a hearing on the bill.  It was standing room only, and the conversation was lively.  Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) member Lisa Abbott reported on the hearing on KFTC's blog

by Lisa Abbott for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Legislators heard testimony today about the benefits of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 167) during a hearing before the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee. KFTC members and our allies in the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance have made HB 167 a high priority, and many were on hand in the packed committee room to show support. Although no vote was taken, the hearing was an important opportunity to inform legislators and build support for the future.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mary Lou Marzian introduced the bill, noting, "Thank you for allowing us to bring this important issue for discussion. This is a piece of legislation about job creation in Kentucky. Twenty-nine other states have passed this kind of policy that is called a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard. These policies have been shown to stabilize rates and create jobs. And those would be jobs that could stay in Kentucky."

Rick Hornby of Synapse Energy Economics presented a summary of a report his firm recently did about the potential economic impact of HB 167 on jobs and electricity rates in Kentucky over the next 10 years. "Kentucky is facing an electricity challenge. A number of utilities are looking at retrofitting some coal-fired plants. Some are planning to retire coal plants. Some of those retirements will be replaced with new generation, largely natural gas. Our study projects that Kentucky is looking at increases in average electricity supply costs on the order of 50%. Adding renewable energy and energy efficiency to your mix will help Kentucky turn this challenge into an opportunity. As I say, it will help. There is no silver bullet."

Cutshorts and Coming to Ground (or We Can't Wait to See this Film)

We just came across this great clip of our good friend Dr. Bill Best talking about Cutshort beans (h/t Lora Smith), and are excited to learn this is a short clip from what looks like an awesome full-length documentary -- Coming to Ground.
Check out more of Dr. Best's phenomenal work with heirloom tomatoes and beans, seed saving, and active preservation of Appalachian agriculture through the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. You can learn more about Coming to Ground on their Facebook page or on their website.  Here's how they describe the movie:
No longer able to depend on tobacco as a cash crop, Kentucky farmers found the ground shifting under them; add rising energy costs, soil and water depletion, climate change - what one state did to change its agriculture future.

COMING TO GROUND is a feature length documentary (90 min) that explores the changes in Kentucky agriculture 10 years after the end of the state’s dependency on the tobacco economy.

Breaking News: Long-Term Approaches to Appalachian Investment Needed Given Region’s Coal Projections

Hot off the presses --a new report from MACED and KCEP: Access the full report here.

From the press release:

Long-Term Approaches to Appalachian Investment Needed Given Region’s Coal Projections

Severance Tax Permanent Fund Could Help Extend Financial Resources for the Future

With forecasts predicting eastern Kentucky coal production could decline 70 percent by the end of the decade, the region needs a long-term approach to transitioning the economy including the creation of a permanent fund from coal severance tax resources, according to a new report released today by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP).

“The UPike debate has raised important questions about how to best invest in developing and diversifying the eastern Kentucky economy,” said Justin Maxson, President of MACED. “But underlying this conversation should be an analysis of what’s happening with coal, discussion of which investments make the most sense and a long-term approach to the challenges we face.”

The report recommends creating a permanent fund from a portion of coal severance tax revenue in order to extend investment in the region over the long-time horizon required to diversify the economy. A fund could turn a portion of the wealth created through the coming economic transition into a permanent asset for future investment. Other natural resource-rich states, including Wyoming, Alaska and Montana, have created permanent funds.

The report estimates that a permanent fund involving a one percent severance tax could grow to $735 million by 2035 and be able to pay annual dividends of $31 million (in current dollars) at that time just using eastern Kentucky revenue. Annual dividends from a fund would surpass coal severance tax revenue used to capitalize the fund in ten years, and the region would have a permanent asset for investments in education, economic development and other purposes. The one percent could come from existing resources or in part by matching Kentucky’s 4.5 percent severance tax rate to West Virginia’s five percent rate.

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