The following federal recommendations form the Mountain Pact’s 2015 Federal Legislative and Policy Priorities:
Support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act
In the past decade, wildfires have increased in frequency and severity, burning 57 percent more land than in the previous four decades, the fire season is two months longer, and the average size of fires is five times greater than in the 1970s. In order to protect communities in the wildland urban interface, significant levels of funding – particularly wildfire prevention – is needed to address this increase in frequency and severity of wildfires. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would create an emergency funding process for fire response. If passed, this bill would not only ensure funding for wildfire suppression but it would redirect large amounts of funding for federal land managers to continue with important activities such as wildfire prevention, forest health, and recreation infrastructure.
Support Limitations on the Department of Interior’s Coal Leasing Program
Since 1990, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has leased 107 coal tracts on federal lands. A 2013 Government Accountability Office report concluded that there is limited competition among coal companies when leases are offered for sale (despite a legal requirement to charge coal companies fair market value) and thus the taxpayer-owned coal is largely undervalued, resulting in less revenues to states and local communities. Moreover, the coal leased from public lands is a large contributor to the nation’s carbon pollution and contradicts the Obama Administration’s commitment to fighting climate change. Coal leased from the Powder River Basin alone accounts for about 41 percent of U.S. coal production, and, once burned, approximately 13 percent of U.S. carbon pollution.
Mountain communities, whose economies and futures are impacted by climate change and who are on the hook for adaptation costs, support closing these gaping loopholes, which allow coal companies to dodge royalty payments owed to American taxpayers, and ensuring those funds are instead paid out to taxpayers and state governments that need the revenue for local schools, roads, and other priorities.
Read the letter eleven towns sent to Interior Secretary Jewell on May 5, 2015.
Support Federal Prioritization of Resilience Planning for Water Infrastructure
Freshwater resources in the U.S. are vulnerable to climate change through more intense droughts, loss of mountain snowpack, extreme storm events, shifting precipitation, ecosystem changes, degradation of supply, storage, and delivery infrastructure, temperature rise, and other impacts. The Federal Government must support and incentivize climate-smart water resource planning and management, in all regions and at all levels of government. The Mountain Pact supports the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force On Climate Preparedness and Resilience recommendation to the Federal Government to provide technical support and guidance on conducting assessments of the vulnerability of water infrastructure to climate change impacts and incorporating climate change resilience into water resource planning and project design and related economic development planning.