Mountain Towns in the West Applaud Obama Administration for Coal Reforms

Date: January 15, 2016
Contact: Diana Madson,

(Washington, DC) - Representatives of mountain communities in the West commend President Obama for his steps to reform the federal coal program.

“In the face of climate change, mountain communities are paying more while coal companies are able to exploit loopholes and pay less - it's time to close the loopholes” said Diana Madson, Executive Director of The Mountain Pact. “We applaud President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their leadership in reforming a federal coal program that is broken, outdated and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues.”

On Friday, January 15, the Interior Department announced the launch of a comprehensive review of the coal leasing program with a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). According to the Interior Department’s press release, the PEIS will consider “how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources." The PEIS includes a moratorium on all new coal leases while the review is taking place.

In addition to the PEIS, the Interior Department will move forward with additional reforms including "establishing a publicly available database to account for the carbon emitted from fossil fuels developed on public lands."

In his final State of the Union on January 12, President Obama acknowledged it’s time to change “the way we manage our oil coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose of taxpayers and our planet.”

“As it currently stands, the federal coal program lacks transparency and coal companies are able to avoid paying their fair share to the American public. Meanwhile, the costs of climate change are rising and our communities are getting stuck with the bill. I fully support President Obama’s steps to fix this broken program,” said Todd Brown a Council Member from Telluride, Colo.

By modernizing the federal coal program these missed revenues could instead help our Western communities to deal with the costly challenges of a changing climate, and support our schools, roads and other essential priorities.

With these reforms, we see that the Obama Administration has heard the calls from mountain communities across the West made at the BLM listening sessions last August and through multiple letters and op-eds.

Mountain communities are feeling the impacts of a changing climate. From reduced snowpack and protracted droughts to increased flood risk and more severe wildfires, towns and taxpayers across the West are bearing the growing financial costs of adapting to a changing climate. These and many other impacts from climate change threaten the Mountain West’s economic prosperity. Mountain communities, whose economies and futures are impacted by climate change and who are on the hook for adaptation costs, urge reform to the federal coal leasing program to more accurately account for the true cost of climate change. Taxpayers deserve a fair share from the development of coal on their public lands.

For more information on this issue, read The Mountain Pact’s report, Paying the Costs of Climate Change.



The Mountain Pact and the communities we work with support the Department of Interior's (DOI) effort to modernize the federal coal program by ensuring that companies pay their fair share.

  • Eleven mountain communities sent a letter to Interior Secretary Jewell and submitted public comment in support of the Interior Department's coal royalty reform proposal on May 8, 2015.
  • Two Mountain Pact delegations of town representatives testified before Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and DOI leadership - including BLM Director Neil Kornze and DOI Deputy Secretary Mike Connor - on the federal coal program. Representatives from the Town of Telluride, Village of Taos Ski Valley, Town of Buena Vista and Town of Alta shared the impacts of climate change they are seeing in their communities and urged BLM to incorporate the costs of climate change into federal coal extraction leases. The testimony was part of the BLM's listening sessions inviting public feedback on the federal coal program. The Mountain Pact attended the August 18 Denver and August 20 Farmington listening sessions.
  • Ten mountain communities submitted written comment to the BLM urging the agency to incorporate the costs of climate change into coal leases on September 17, 2015.
  • Park City Mayor Jack Thomas published an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune on March 28, 2015. 
  • Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser published an op-ed in the Denver Post on May 6, 2015.
  • Leadville Mayor Jamie Stuever published an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette on August 27, 2015. 
  • Mountain Pact Executive Director published an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal on August 27, 2015.
  • A key goal of this policy campaign was to bring media attention to the issue and highlight mountain community support for the Interior Department's proposal. With coverage in U.S News and World Report, Associated Press, Colorado Public Radio, Outside Magazine, and the Denver Post (among others) plus ads in USA Today during the Western Governors Association annual meeting and the Denver Post during the BLM listening sessions, our efforts have been a success. 
  • Mountain Pact Report: Paying the Costs of Climate Change

  • Public Opinion Survey: The Mountain Pact partnered with the Center for American Progress to commission a national survey of 803 likely 2016 voters to explore this issue. The survey examined likely voters’ views about coal mining on national public lands and proposals to reform federal coal policy. The key findings revealed that voters have mixed views about the idea of leasing public lands to coal companies, but there is broad bipartisan support for several reforms to federal coal policy, including cutting subsidies and charging royalties based on the true market price at which coal is sold to a power plant or exporter. View the survey results here.

For more information on this or the Mountain Pact in general, please don't hesitate to contact us at