Center for American Progress

RELEASE: By Two-to-One Margin, Americans Want to End Coal Subsidies on U.S. Public Lands
Press Release

RELEASE: By Two-to-One Margin, Americans Want to End Coal Subsidies on U.S. Public Lands

Washington, D.C. — According to new public opinion research released today, a majority of Americans from across the ideological spectrum would support reforms to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s coal-leasing program, including to change how royalties are assessed and to end federal subsidies to coal companies that mine on public lands.

The research, which was commissioned by the Center for American Progress and The Mountain PACT and conducted by Hart Research Associates—a leading national research firm—was based on phone interviews with more than 800 voters nationwide.

“A strong majority of Americans say the government should be better defending their interests as taxpayers by collecting every dollar of coal royalties that are owed,” said Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates. “For voters, the top priority for federal coal reform is to ensure that states and local communities are getting their fair share of revenues to fund schools, roads, and other critical needs.”

The survey found that while Americans are evenly divided over whether the federal government should be leasing U.S. public lands for coal mining, 64 percent of voters say they had a negative reaction to hearing that the U.S. Department of the Interior provides subsidies to coal companies to mine on U.S. public lands. By a nearly two-to-one margin—53 percent support, 29 percent oppose—respondents say they want these subsidies ended.

“The federal coal program has largely been out of sight and out of mind for the past three decades, but recent investigations have found that subsidies and royalty loopholes are costing taxpayers and Western communities billions of dollars in lost revenues,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, Senior Fellow and Director of Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. “Taxpayers want a fairer return and a more fiscally responsible approach to the development of their coal resources on public lands.”

According to the public opinion research released today, majorities of Republican, Democratic, and independent respondents support several potential reforms to the federal coal-leasing program, including:

  • Requiring companies to pay royalties on the price at which they sell coal to power plants or exporters, rather than the price at which it is sold to subsidiaries or middlemen. (69 percent support)
  • Increasing the royalty rate for coal mining to 18.75 percent to make it the same as for offshore oil and gas drilling (62 percent support).
  • Requiring coal companies to pay a fee to compensate for pollution and environmental damage that results from mining and burning of coal (71 percent support).

The Mountain PACT, an organization that represents mountain communities concerned about the economic impacts of a changing climate, today also released a report that recommends reforms to the federal coal program to help provide Western communities needed resources to adapt to the rising costs of climate change.

A memo that summarizes the results of the research can be found here.
For a PowerPoint summary of the results, click here.
For the polling data, click here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.