The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 29, 2014

W.Va. coal exports still lead, but dip drastically

CHARLESTON — A significant drop in coal exports contributed to a 26 percent decline in West Virginia’s overall exports last year, according to federal government data released by the state Friday.

U.S. Census figures cited by the state show exports of $8.4 billion last year, the third-highest total in state history. The 2012 total of $11.3 billion was a record.

Despite the overall drop, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said state exports “contributed greatly to our overall economic growth in 2013.” The state Department of Commerce said West Virginia exported products to 144 countries last year, up from 136 in 2012.

Canada is by far the state’s top export market at $1.8 billion, followed by the Netherlands, $661 million; China, $596 million; Brazil, $515 million; and Italy, $470 million.

Coal remained West Virginia’s top export despite falling 40 percent in 2013, to $4.4 billion from $7.4 billion. Coal exports increased significantly to Morocco and Mexico, but those were only a small share of the product’s export markets. Exports fell by double digits in each of the top eight foreign markets. Coal exports to the Netherlands fell $269 million, or 33 percent, to $538 million last year.

West Virginia remains the leading state for coal exports, with 40 percent of the U.S. total, followed by Pennsylvania with an 18 percent share and Alabama at 12 percent.

“The world markets know the high quality of West Virginia’s coal both for steam and steel production,” West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said. “So while last year was a bit of a struggle, we continue to see exports as a bright spot for our state’s coal industry.”

Other state exports grew by $47 million, to $3.9 billion. Plastics, machinery and automotive components were also top exports.

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