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US coal production falls to lowest level in nearly 30 years

Published:Monday | January 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A coal miner works to secure the roof with bolts in an underground coal mine roughly 40-inches-high. Preliminary government figures released Friday show U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years as cheaper sources of power and stricter environmental regulations reduce demand.

WASHINGTON (AP):

United States (US) coal production has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years as cheaper sources of power and stricter environmental regulations reduce demand, according to preliminary government figures.

A report released last Friday by the US Energy Information Administration estimates that 900 million short tons of coal were produced last year, a drop from about 1 billion short tons in 2014.

That's the lowest volume since 1986.

The slump has led to bankruptcies and layoffs at mining companies, but the effects have rippled outward, stressing state budgets and forcing layoffs in other sector, such as railroads, which are transporting less coal.

Power plants are increasingly relying on cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to provide electricity and comply with regulations aimed at reducing pollution that contributes to climate change.

A sweeping agreement adopted last month in Paris by nearly 200 countries determined to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions is likely to make coal an even less viable choice in the decades ahead.