Carbondale and Aspen mayors sign to require coal companies to pay royalties |

Carbondale and Aspen mayors sign to require coal companies to pay royalties

Staff report
Steve Skadron

Carbondale and Aspen mayors are among 11 leaders of Western mountain towns who signed a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling for the federal government to require coal companies to pay royalties on the true market price of coal mined on public land.

“Paying the Costs of Climate Change,” a new report released by the Mountain Pact, a Nevada-based nonprofit that seeks to support mountain towns’ economies, contends that coal companies deprive taxpayers in the West of their fair share of the revenue from coal leased on federal land.

The organization says that “by exploiting a loophole in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s rules that allow them to sell coal to their own subsidiary companies at below-market prices, coal companies are dodging royalty payments owed to U.S. taxpayers and to Western states, to the tune of $1 billion a year.”

In a speech this year, Jewell said it’s time for “an honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal coal program” and that her department is actively looking into permanent fixes.

Besides Carbondale and Aspen, mayors of Ophir, Ridgway, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Dillon and Leadville, along with Park City, Utah, and Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, signed the Mountain Pact letter to Jewell expressing support for her department’s proposed reforms.

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot wrote in an email that the Mountain Pact contacted Carbondale to consider signing on to the letter, which was discussed at a Carbondale Board of Trustees meeting in April.

“Our board felt it was consistent with our other stances on energy extraction in that we are not opposed, just want to see those industries pay their ‘fair share,’ and be mindful that certain areas are inappropriate for extraction,” Bernot wrote.

“While we’d like to see our carbon reduction goals met, reliance on fossil fuels diminish and the federal and state government require proper regulations to those industries, I’m mindful that there’s a transition period and a balance,” she wrote. “After all, coal mining is what kept this town (and my family) fed for a couple decades not all that long ago. Neighboring counties like Delta are feeling the pinch of losing hundreds of jobs with the shift in coal mining in their area.

“So while our board signed on, and I personally think it’s the right move to diminish subsidies, we’re not actively engaged in the Mountain Pact beyond that.”