Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New Poll Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Support Targeted Pause of and Reforms to the Federal Coal Leasing Program
Press Release

RELEASE: New Poll Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Support Targeted Pause of and Reforms to the Federal Coal Leasing Program

Washington, D.C. — According to new public opinion research commissioned by the Center for American Progress, 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the recent proposal by President Barack Obama’s administration to undertake a comprehensive review of the federal government’s coal program and to pause the sale of new coal leases on public lands until that review is completed.

The survey of 1,024 Americans was conducted from January 11 to January 17 by Hart Research Associates—a leading national public opinion research firm—and assessed respondents’ attitudes and opinions relating to energy, conservation, parks, and public lands policies that are expected to be discussed and debated in 2016.

“Americans are concerned with the environmental costs of the federal coal program and want to see a faster transition to solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates. “Against this backdrop of popular support for a cleaner energy future, the Obama administration’s commitment to modernizing the federal coal-leasing program and to pause most new leases is being well-received both nationally and in the Rocky Mountain West.”

In a seven-state region of the Rocky Mountain West—from which more than 90 percent of federal coal is mined—more than 53 percent of voters say they would support a pause on new coal leasing until the program is fully reviewed. In the Rocky Mountain states and nationally, respondents said that environmental considerations—such as carbon pollution and whether a company has cleaned up areas it has already mined—should weigh most heavily in the federal government’s decisions about leasing public lands for coal mining.

The survey also found that a majority of voters nationally think that the United States should rely more on solar energy—at 86 percent—and wind power—at 82 percent—while relying less on energy from coal and oil in the next five years.

“As Congress takes up an energy bill this week, the coal industry’s allies will do all they can to keep the federal coal program frozen in 1985 and to keep buying subsidized coal for less than a dollar per ton,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, Senior Fellow and Director of Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. “But lawmakers should recognize that public opinion on energy policy has changed in the 30 years since the coal program was last updated, and Americans now want cleaner energy sources, a fairer return from fossil fuels, and better protections for the air, wildlife, and climate.”

The results also indicate widespread public reservations about the idea of leasing public lands to coal companies. When told that the federal government leases public lands—mainly in Wyoming and Montana—to companies to mine for coal, nearly 3 in 5 respondents, or 58 percent, had an unfavorable reaction. Approximately 49 percent of respondents said that the United States should decrease the use of coal in the next 10 years, while only 20 percent said the country should increase its use of coal.

For the survey results, click here.

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