While the United States has seen an overall decline in the production and use of coal, there is a different story in Illinois.
During the first half of this year, Illinois coal production was 13% higher than the same period last year. That has been driven in significant part by power plants that have switched from Appalachia's higher-cost coal to Illinois' cheaper coal. Illinois coal has more sulfur, a pollutant, but at least 30 power plants in the region have added scrubbing equipment that allows them to burn Illinois coal.
The information comes from a report from the US Energy Information Administration, which is a non-partisan federal agency.
EIA Economist Tejasvi Raghuveer said Illinois coal is also cheaper to dig up than what's in the older, more exhausted mines in Appalachia.
“"So existing mines are able to open up new seams, and there are new mines in areas where it hasn't been excavated yet,” Raghuveer said.
A total of eight new mines have opened in Illinois in the past three years, including five in 2012 alone.
Raghuveer said the state’s transportation infrastructure — rivers, railroads, and the Great Lakes — makes it cheaper to export coal from Illinois than from other parts of the country.
Thanks to Illinois Public Radio