Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Park City Pushes for Coal Reform

Don Anderson
Flickr Creative Commons
Park City is one of the West's ski towns that wants to use federal coal-royalty regulations to address climate change impacts.

Western ski towns including Park City are backing a proposal to reform the royalty system for coal mined on federal lands. The reason: Climate change is dragging down their economies, says a coalition called the Mountain Pact.

The group says Park City will lose $120 million dollars in lower output, 1,137 jobs and more than $20 million dollars in paychecks thanks to a shrinking snowpack and less tourism. The Utah ski town has joined ten other mountain communities that want to combat the problem through reforms to federal coal-leasing programs.

“Our key message is that, in the face of climate change, mountain communities are paying more, while coal companies are able to exploit loopholes and pay significantly less,” says Diana Madson, Mountain Pact’s executive director. “And so mountain towns around the West are calling on the Department of Interior to close these loopholes.”

The reforms could mean more royalty revenue that would be split between energy communities and federal conservation projects.

“It’s a pretty significant impact in that, if this policy goes through, it would generate about a bill dollars a year,” she says.

Utah just ended its warmest and driest winter on record. At the same time skier visits declined nationwide by 5 percent, according to the American Ski Area Association.

The State Office of Energy Development did not have anyone available to comment on the proposed royalty change. Last year,  Utah’s coal output was the lowest in three decades.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.