Park City presses Obama administration for coal reform | ParkRecord.com

Park City presses Obama administration for coal reform

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Park City has signed a letter alongside other mountain communities supporting federal reform that would impact the coal industry.

The group of 11 communities is known as The Mountain Pact and also includes eight communities in Colorado and Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. The Colorado mountain resort communities of Aspen and Telluride are two of the signatories.

The two-page letter was scheduled to be sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday. It was also scheduled to be sent to other members of the Obama administration and 11 members of the House of Representatives or senators. Rob Bishop, the congressman whose district includes Park City and surrounding Summit County, was to receive the letter. Utah’s two senators — Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee — were also on the recipient list.

City Hall staffers approved the municipal government’s participation in The Mountain Pact. The topic was not put before Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council beforehand.

The Mountain Pact letter to the interior secretary says the communities "commend" federal efforts that would reform the value of coal that is leased on federal acreage.

"By eliminating subsidies and requiring coal companies to pay royalties on the true market price of coal, rather than on the hidden price at which it is sold to a middleman or a subsidiary, the government will collect a fair return for U.S. taxpayers and western states (an estimated $1 billion per year), and increase government transparency and efficiency," the letter says.

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The letter addresses the idea that the climate is changing. The Park City government in recent years has pursued an aggressive environmental program to combat a warming planet. Park City leaders worry that a warming planet may someday impact the ski industry, which is critical to the local economy.

"Positioned in rural mountain areas and often surrounded by federal land, our communities are especially vulnerable to climate change. Economic, public health, and environmental damages from catastrophic wildfire, floods and reduced snowpack are some of the threats we face," it says.

The letter also states: "The costs of adapting to a changing climate are rising, but at the same time coal companies are taking advantage of gaping loopholes that allow them to pay less, thus depriving many western states (and taxpayers across the country) their fare share of the revenues from coal leased on federal land."

The letter claims the federal government’s "undervaluation of coal may have cost taxpayers upward of $30 billion in lost revenue."

"Western states need this money for local schools, roads, and other priorities. This much-needed reform will generate increased revenue for states in which the coal is mined and help level the playing field in other U.S. coal markets by ensuring that everyone is playing by the rules," it says.

In an interview, the mayor said The Mountain Pact wants the coal industry to "pay their fair share." He said the majority of the power generated in Utah comes from coal-fired power plants.

"It’s a part of that grid. Every kilowatt is created from burning coal," Thomas said.

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