While not exactly a surge, Kentucky’s slight increase in coal production during the first quarter of 2017 perhaps was a sign the prolonged output decline that saw the Bluegrass state slip to fifth nationally in 2016 — behind even Illinois and Pennsylvania, as well as Wyoming and West Virginia — finally may be over.

Kentucky produced a little more than 11.2 million tons in the first three months of this year, keeping it on course to turn out nearly 45 million tons in 2017. If so, that would beat the 42.7 million tons the state produced in 2016, which was down 61.4 million tons in 2015.

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