The Future of Coal in Utah
CERTAINTIES This section examines production, consumption, competition, and the region’s reliance on the coal industry as some of the most important facts for understanding where the coal industry is at today and could be headed tomorrow. This data represents those things which are relatively measurable and predictable.

 

KEY MESSAGE Central Utah is heavily influenced by coal Utah’s coal communities rely on the jobs, revenues, and indirect economic benefits provided by coal mining and coal-fired power. The future of coal will play a fundamental role in the future of Utah's coal producing counties.
"...all we can do is keep fighting..." - Daniel Servey
Socio-Economic Profiles click below for information on Utah's communities
KEY MESSAGE Coal is an abundant resource in Utah Utah produces a significant amount of coal. In the national picture, however, Utah is only the 15th largest coal producer, and has less than 1 percent of the nations recoverable reserves. This is because 57 percent of Utah’s coal reserves are locked in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, leaving 54 years of economically feasible coal reserves for the state.
- more - estimated reserves
KEY MESSAGE Utah's coal is renowned for its clean qualities Utah’s coal is renowned for its clean qualities and relatively high heat content. Utah coal is also priced near the national average, allowing it to compete with most coal mines in the US. Low sulfur and ash content contribute to Utah coal’s competitiveness when compared with coals from other regions, especially the eastern US.
- more - coal chemical properties
KEY MESSAGE Most of Utah's coal does not leave the state There are three key markets for Utah coal: (1) within the State of Utah, (2) domestic exports, and (3) international exports. Shifts in any of these markets are felt by individuals and communities across central Utah. The Utah and US markets are facing longterm decline in demand for coal, and international prices are currently very low due to a long-term glut on the supply side.
- more - IPP
- more - markets for Utah coal
“Thermal seaborne coal markets face a combined threat of a steadily-growing supply in the largest producing regions and a leveling-off or decline in demand in consuming regions." — Deutsche Bank
KEY MESSAGE Coal keeps Utah's electricity rates low Coal remains the most cost-effective source of energy production in Utah, and across the US. Recent decreases in natural gas prices have increased the profitability of gas-fired plants, increasing pressure on the coal-fired power industry. Despite this, coal remains significantly less expensive than natural gas, providing Utah's citizenry with one of the lowest electricity rates in the US.
KEY MESSAGE Utah relies heavily on coal-fired power Utah uses coal to generate more of its electricity than 43 other states. The high usage of coal is tied to low utility rates within the state. However, within Utah and across the nation, a significant shift away from coal has occurred. With no new coal-fired plants planned for Utah and only a few nationally, it appears as though this trend will continue.
“According to the EIA, the amount of energy the nation generates from burning coal is nine times the amount we get from both solar and wind, combined. Common sense dictates we should continue to use abundant, low-cost resources like coal in a smart, efficient manner.” — Cody Stewart, Energy Advisor to Governor Hebert
KEY MESSAGE Demand for power in Utah continues to increase Demand for electricity in Utah will increase greatly in coming years. Power consumption within Utah is expected to increase in two ways: (1) Utah's population is expected to double by 2050, and (2) individuals are expected to use more energy per capita despite energy conservation and efficiency efforts. Current trends in power plant construction suggest natural gas plants will fill most of the new demand, with some assistance from renewable energy sources.
KEY MESSAGE Most Americans favor alternatives to coal Public opinion of coal is trending downwards. Concern about climate change is significant in the US, and two thirds of Americans support increased emissions requirements for power plants. Significantly more people under the age of 55 prefer strict renewable energy development to fossil-fuel development, demonstrating that opinion is unlikely to improve significantly in the future.
- more - RMP Blue Sky
“Coal is being tried in the Court of public opinion, and the case is on its way to being lost.” — Anonymous
"If I could change one thing about the coal industry it would be the public perception of it - that its not a clean, reliable source of energy. We burn 150-times more coal than we did in 1970. Yet, our pollution is one-third of what it was." - Greg Galecki, Environmental Engineer - Skyline Mine
KEY MESSAGE Regulation is negatively impacting the coal industry Changes in public opinion have been followed in suit by increased regulatory requirements for both the mining and power-producing sectors. There are currently seven regulations from the EPA affecting coal-fired power plants that have recently gone into effect, are proposed, or are awaiting public comment. Considering multiple agencies regulate coal-fired power and coal mining, the number of regulations that change the landscape for these industries is staggering.
"Mining is among the most heavily regulated and publicly scrutinized industries in the country."
- SWCA, Environmental Consultants
“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that is being emitted.” — President Barack Obama
- more - federal incentives
- more - EPA proposal 2014
KEY MESSAGE The natural gas boom threatens the coal industry Natural gas is the fastest-growing electricity source in Utah and in the US. The EIA has projected that natural gas will surpass coal as the top electricity source in the country by 2035. However, decreasing natural gas prices and cleaner emissions could speed this process, reducing the national coal fleet even faster than projected.
“The real war on coal is being waged by cheap natural gas - not the Environmental Protection Agency.” — Ted Nordhaus
- more - gas and coal production
- more - RMP future production