Duke Energy compares coal prices from sheared-off mountains vs. mines

Duke Energy is asking Appalachian coal suppliers to submit price estimates for coal mined by removing mountaintops — and prices for coal that isn't.

The request, the first by Duke, comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers and environmentalists to stop the practice of removing the earth above coal seams. The practice is cheaper and safer than underground mining, but can level mountain peaks while filling valleys with debris.

Duke said Monday its May 26 requests for coal-procurement proposals ask bidders for the information to help learn the price differences between the two types of coal.

Price is crucial because Duke is under state mandates to provide the cheapest possible electricity. The data from suppliers will help Duke determine financial impacts that may be reviewed by regulators, Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni said.

Duke paid $1.2 billion last year for the 14 million tons of coal it burned in its eight Carolinas coal-fired power plants. The company typically spends about $3 billion a year for coal to supply its power plants in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

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