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The Outlook for Coal Improves


Optimism returns to an industry ravaged by hostile regulatory overreach

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What a difference a year makes. A year ago, the outlook was incredibly bleak. Most of the news reverberating through the coal business were bankruptcies and notices of
layoffs as U.S. coal production took a nose dive. The question was not whether 2016 would be a bad year for coal operators, but how bad? 

Utility coal consumption declined again in 2016 as coal continued to face stiff competition from natural gas.

As the year wore on, the tide started to turn for the coal business. Even though the courts ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory approach and the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama administration, an administration that was hostile toward the coal business for eight years, placed a full-court press on the industry in its final months. A collective sigh of relief could be heard throughout the coalfields with the outcome of the election. The thought of four more years of regulatory overreach under a Democratic-led administration was simply too much to bear. The Obama administration continued to lash out at the coal business until the 11th hour, pushing through a stream protection rule even though it knew it would be reversed.

Every January, Coal Age publishes its Annual Forecast based on a survey of its readership. The informal study gives an assessment of the current market situation, as well as the state of mind of coal operators. Based on that information and anecdotal information from the leading coal companies and the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Coal Age attempts to identify trends.

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