photography of excavators at mining area
The review also will consider if companies are paying fair value for coal extracted from public reserves in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and other states, according to a federal register notice outlining the administration's intents. Photo: Dominik Vanyi

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A new U.S. report says coal production in Wyoming, the nation’s top coal mining state, fell by 21% in 2020 from the previous year, caused in part by reduced demand during the coronavirus pandemic, low natural gas prices and a longstanding move away from fossil fuels to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to generate electricity.

A U.S. Energy Information Industry Administration report this week also said the nation’s coal production in 2020 was at its lowest level since 1965, The Casper Star-Tribune reported Thursday.

Wyoming produced 41% of the nation’s coal in 2020, the EIA said.

Total U.S. coal production fell 24% in 2020 from 2019 and coal-fired power generation dropped by 20%. Coal exports were down 26%, the EIA said.

Production has increased to meet rising electricity demand as the economy reopens this year. The EIA estimates that U.S. coal production this year will be 15% higher than in 2020.

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said coal still provides 20% to 23% of U.S. electricity supply. Many of some 572 coal industry jobs lost last year in Wyoming are returning, Deti said.

Coal’s steady downturn and oil prices that plunged during the pandemic forced the state to slash spending over the past year.