BILLINGS — Coal mining in the Western United States is expected to get a small bump over the next two years after falling last year to its lowest level since 1978.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday projected the increase will come in response to rising prices for a competing fuel, natural gas.
Both fuels are used to generate electricity. Coal’s market share dropped sharply in recent years due to low gas prices and pollution regulations.
The energy agency says production from mines in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and other Western states would rise to 443 million tons by 2018, an increase of almost one percent.
A continued decline is forecast for the Appalachian region. Production will stay relatively flat in the Illinois Basin and other areas of the central U.S.
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