U.S. Coal In Decline, But Not In Indiana

May 10, 2018

The outlook for coal in the U.S. is bleak. Forbes cited a report Wednesday that says twice as many coal plants are expected to close in 10 years than what was predicted a year ago. But as for coal in Indiana, that’s a more complicated story. 

NIPSCO plans to retire its coal plant in Chesterton at the end of this month. And Vectren says it will close three of its coal plants in the next five years. But President of the Indiana Coal Council Bruce Stevens says compared to other states, Indiana coal is going strong.

“Indiana has not experienced the downturn that some of the other states have. We’re not sitting right on top of massive natural gas plays,” says Stevens.

Coal production is up almost 2 percent from the same time last year and about 15 percent from 2016.

But economists say Indiana won’t stay immune to national coal issues for long. Michael Hicks, an economist with Ball State University, says the cheap price of natural gas is bound to affect Indiana soon enough. He says coal plants in the state are getting old and will likely be replaced.

“That’s going to cause there to be more investment in natural gas pipelines and more investment in natural gas facilities here in Indiana like they would be anywhere else in the country,” says Hicks.

Economists say if Indiana coal prices are competitive, there will still be a market for Indiana coal internationally.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.