On Top Of New Proposed Rules For Coal, A Debate Over Public Land Royalties

<p>(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)</p>
<p>The Colowyo Mine about 30 miles south of Craig, Colo. on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. </p>

As we’ve noted here, the rules being announced by the White House on Monday require that power plants cut carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rules also demand that 28 percent of a power plant's generating capacity come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Related CPR News coverage:

But there’s another debate going on with regards to fossil fuels: Whether the companies extracting coal from publicly-owned lands — especially in the West — are being charged high enough royalties by the government to offset the impact of climate change.

We last wrote about this in May, when leaders of nine Colorado mountain towns, including Telluride, Aspen and Crested Butte, signed the Mountain Pact, which says that over the last 30 years, the government has undervalued coal across the country, costing taxpayers as much as $30 billion.

Now, the Interior Department has started hosting “listening sessions” aimed at addressing what to do about the royalties from public lands. Elizabeth Shogren at High Country News attended the first session in Washington, D.C.

Among those pressing for higher royalties: The Sierra Club’s Marni Salmon:

“If the United States is serious about meeting the Obama administration climate reduction goals, we need to keep this dirty coal in the ground,” said Salmon.

Energy companies also sent representatives. She quoted Thomas Altmeyer, vice president of federal affairs for Arch Coal, the nation’s second largest coal producer:

“It seems imprudent and unwise to saddle American manufacturers with higher energy costs at a time when the growth in the economy is still struggling to return.”

Shogren says no members of Congress attended this first of five planned sessions. One of those sessions will be held in Colorado on Aug. 18.