BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. coal exports rose sharply in early 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday that exports are up by 8 million tons to 22.3 million tons through March.

That's a 58 percent jump over the 14.1 million tons exported during the same period in 2016. The increase comes after five years of declines.

Exports volumes were up most significantly through ports in Norfolk, Virginia; New Orleans and Seattle. Top destinations for U.S. coal were the Netherlands, South Korea and India.

Despite the increase, volumes remain well below industry expectations when plans were announced over the past decade to build or expand coal ports in Oregon, Louisiana, Washington state and California.

Most of those projects have stalled or been cancelled. Federal officials say there's still more export capacity than needed.

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