Emission Trends for Underground Coal Mines

Reported emissions from the Underground Coal Mines sector decreased from 40.9 million metric tons (MMT) CO2e in 2011 to 30.2 MMT CO2e in 2020, a decline of 26 percent. Emissions were relatively steady from 2011 and 2015 but began gradually decreasing beginning in 2016. The reported emissions in 2020 continued this downward trend with emissions decreasing by 4 MMT CO2e (11.7 percent) compared to 2019, despite an additional two coal mines reporting in 2020.

The overall declining trend in emissions is due to a decrease in coal production combined with the idling or closure of several large, gassy underground mines.[1][2] The number of reporters decreased from a high of 131 in 2014 to a low of 69 in 2019 and then increased to 71 facilities in 2020.  The decline in emissions for 2020 is due to a drop in U.S. coal production due to less demand for coal both domestically and internationally. [3][4]. The decline in domestic demand was partly due to very low natural gas prices that made coal-fired power plants less competitive. However, the mild winter and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic reduced electricity demand. Domestically, there was a 19% reduction in coal consumption by the electric power sector in 2020, compared with 2019. [3] Coal consumption in other sectors was also impacted by facility shutdowns cause by the pandemic. EIA reports the retail and other industry sectors consumed 15% less coal in 2020, compared with 2019. [3] Coal exports decreased by 26% in 2020 as countries around the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and some U.S. coal mines were idled for extended periods to prevent the spread of the virus. [4]

The decrease in emissions in 2016 can be attributed in part to the 2016 amendments in Part 98, which allowed underground coal mines to cease reporting emissions for abandoned mines. Prior to 2016, owners and operators were required to continue reporting for up to three years following abandonment. The number of underground coal mines reporting dropped from 125 in 2015 to 95 in 2016 due, in part, to this rule amendment.  

[1]     U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Quarterly Coal Report.  July 1, 2021, and Annual Coal Report, October 5, 2020. https://www.eia.gov/coal/production/quarterly/pdf/qcr-all.pdf and https://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/acr.pdf.

[2]     U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, The number of producing U.S. coal mines fell in 2020. July 30, 2021. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=48936#.

[3]     U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, U.S. coal consumption by major end users, 1950-2020. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/coal/use-of-coal.php

[4]     U.S. Department of Energy, Today in Energy, Annual U.S. Coal Exports Drop 26% Between 2019 and 2020, March 11, 2021. Available at: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47096

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