The U.S. coal mining industry”s role as the nation”s top fuel source for power generation remains secure despite possible regulatory and legal roadblocks, the head of the National Mining Association (NMA) said Sunday during an interview with Platts Energy Week television.

While coal”s share of energy sources for U.S. power plants may dip slightly over the next few years from its current level just shy of 50 percent, NMA President and CEO Harold “Hal” Quinn said the need for coal generation will only get stronger.

“I think it may go down a little bit, but I think if we are to maintain our competitive position as a country, I think we”d better be very careful about how much it does decrease since it”s the lowest-cost and most-reliable source of electricity,” Quinn said.

“We”ve had about 11 [gigawatts] GW of new coal-fired plants added in the last 10 years here,” Quinn said. Globally, 400 GW of new coal-fired power plants are to be brought online through 2015, he added.

But ever-new gas plays, which were “increasing competition in the marketplace,” have increased capital expenditures and “pressures on utilities” to retrofit power plants to meet new environmental standards as challenges for the coal industry, Quinn acknowledged.

“One area of great concern, in terms of timing, [is] the staggering costs that could be associated with these new regulations on conventional emissions from power plants,” Quinn said. “We think the regulators will have to take a broader look at a more balanced approach to these regulations.”

“The president”s recent executive order on regulations is a very welcome sign now that the administration understands the $1.75 trillion burden of regulations on this economy is a huge impediment,” Quinn said, referring to U.S. President Barack Obama”s January 18 call for less burdensome federal regulations.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has since asked companies and other stakeholders about how DOE could streamline or repeal some of its regulations.

To view the full Platts Energy interview with Quinn, click here.