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Bill swapping geologically incorrect Kentucky state rock, mineral advances

 Coal (left), a rock, and Chalcedony agate (right), a mineral. A newly introduced bill seeks to correct a mixup of Kentucky's state rock and mineral.
University of Kentucky
Coal (left), a rock, and Chalcedony agate (right), a mineral. A newly introduced bill seeks to correct a mixup of Kentucky's state rock and mineral.

Kentucky’s state mineral, coal, is a rock and its state rock, Kentucky Agate, is a mineral.

A bill that would swap the two to be geologically correct advanced out of a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 378, sponsored by Louisville Democrat Al Gentry, aims to correct a more than 25-year-old mistake. The state legislature voted to make coal the state mineral in 1998. Kentucky Agate, a colorful variety of quartz first discovered in east-central Kentucky in the 1970s, was honored as the state rock two years later.

The matter is a personal one for Gentry, who completed a bachelor’s degree in geology at the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in hydrogeology at the University of Kentucky. He said the bill will allow the state to “continue to honor these incredible substances [of] very unique and historical significance” to Kentucky while reflecting “what they actually are, geologically speaking.”

“The problem is coal is not really a mineral in geologic terms. It's an organic sedimentary deposit … [what] we might refer to as a rock,” Gentry said. “Not to be outdone, two years later, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation to designate Kentucky Agate as the official state rock … which is unfortunate because agate is a microscopically crystalline variety of the mineral quartz, and not a rock.”

Rep. Tina Bojanowski, a Louisville Democrat, said she was supporting the measure because her daughter is studying geology and the unnecessary confusion has given her angst. Some members of the state’s scientific community have said the mixup is a laughing matter in scientific circles.

Wellington Republican David Hale chairs the House State Government Committee. He said, growing up in Menifee County, coal was a part of life and he’s glad to correct the state’s geological gaffe.

“I didn't know if coal was a rock or a mineral,” Hale said. “All I knew is I had to carry it in in a bucket to put in the stove and then had to remove it to take it back out.”

Similar measures have been sponsored by Lexington Democrat Cherlynn Stevenson and Gentry before, once in 2019 and again in 2022. Neither previous proposal received a committee vote.

The bill passed favorably – with a few chuckles from committee members – and now advances to the full House.

Copyright 2024 WKMS. To see more, visit WKMS.

Derek Operle

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