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Rural Blog: Feds’ forecast shows major decline in coal production with or without Clean Power Plan


Appalachian coal production is forecast to decline by 79 million tons by 2040 under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and would decline by 50 million tons without the plan, says a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The report “shows that coal production in the Appalachian region, which has declined steeply since 2000, is projected to see the smallest reduction in production attributable to the Clean Power Plan,” James Bruggers reports for The Courier-Journal.

coal producers

The reports says Appalachian production, which made up 26 percent of all U.S. coal production in 2015, would decline to 20 percent in 2040 under the plan. In the West, production would drop from 55 percent to 52 percent of the total; in the Interior basins (blue on EIA map), it would increase from 19 percent to 29 percent.

Nationwide, coal production is projected to decline by 230 million tons—26 percent—between 2015 and 2040 under the plan, which calls for a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.

EIA found that Appalachia’s production of metallurgical coal, “which is used in the steelmaking process, represented about 28 percent of its total coal production in 2014,” Bruggers writes. “It won’t be affected directly by the new climate regulations” which are aimed at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Because Eastern Kentucky does not have much metallurgical coal, unlike West Virginia, it will bear the brunt of the changes, said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. He agreed that coal in Eastern Kentucky faces challenges beyond the Clean Power Plan, but said a variety of Obama environmental regulations have also punished the industry,” Bruggers reports.

“Coal production in the Interior region of the country increases by 86 million tons by 2040 without a Clean Power Plan,” Bruggers writes. “That region includes portions of Western Kentucky and Indiana. Even with those regulations, coal mining in the Interior region increases by 5 million tons by 2040, according to the report. Western production declines in both scenarios.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.


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