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Geologic conditions during the Pennsylvanian created events necessary for coal-forming that are relatively rare in geologic history. This mix of conditions involved (1) tectonics accompanied by sedimentation; (2) depositional environments that favored poorly drained, clear-water, acidic swamps; (3) climates that encouraged peat formation and preservation; (4) plant evolution that produced sufficient biomass to keep pace with a changing base level; and (5) repeated cycles of marine and nonmarine sedimentation, alternating between detrital influx and “starvation” in response to eustatic, tectonic, and sediment-supply changes. Factors important in determining the quality and thickness of coal beds are the relative rates of...

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