Pennsylvania on Tuesday released its assessment of the state's energy resources, which will serve as the foundation for a state energy plan expected to be issued in the coming months.
"The central message of this report is that Pennsylvania is making faster progress toward closing its gap between energy production and consumption than most American states," the document said. "This pattern of rising production and slowing consumption is expected to continue over time, eventually allowing Pennsylvania and the nation to declare energy independence."
The state engaged Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Economics LLC to do the analysis titled, "Energy in Pennsylvania: past, present and future." The consulting group relied mostly on data from the Energy Information Administration for future projections, but also surveyed companies and industry groups and examined state statistics.
Despite the gains touted in the report -- an increase in renewables, energy efficiency and a decrease in the energy needed to produce the state's gross domestic product -- a striking theme throughout the 100-page assessment is the decline of coal.
The report chronicled the decline in coal production since 2000 and predicted that would continue "until at least 2017 and probably beyond." By 2017, mines in Pennsylvania are expected to be churning out 25 percent less coal than in 2000, a much steeper decline than the national average.
On the flip side, natural gas production is forecast to grow by nearly 700 percent during that time -- again, a much more dramatic change than is expected nationwide.
"[The] constant and accelerating movement away from coal will lead to a virtual tie between coal and nuclear power as the most common fuel sources in Pennsylvania," the report said. "Quickly converging on these fuels is natural gas."
"The implications of implementing forward-looking energy strategies in Pennsylvania are simply massive," the report concludes. "Sound policy would promote greater energy exports, enhanced efficiency, an improved local and global environment, job creation, income formation and associated business development opportunities."
The 164-page report was submitted to the state in February, but Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett's energy executive, said he's still digesting how the information will mold the state's energy agenda.
"I am sure the data and info will mean different things to different policymakers," Mr. Henderson said. "The state energy plan will very much be a 'marketing of PA energy resources' document -- drafted for a wider audience."
While the decline of coal was stated matter-of-factly in dozens of charts in the report, Mr. Henderson said the future of the fuel that has been a bedrock of Pennsylvania's economy for decades "is not written."
These are essentially academic projections absent substantive public policy influences, he said. "We are committed to working for policies that will hopefully lead to a very bright future for coal."
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection added its support to an accusation made by 17 attorneys general of Midwestern states that the Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its authority in making rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.
Those rules will hit coal plants hardest.
Anya Litvak: email@example.com or 412-263-1455