A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Obama administration to charge federal-land coal fees that account for the costs of climate change.

The senators, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), want to hold mining companies responsible for the global warming that the carbon dioxide emissions from their coal will cause.

The lawmakers sent the letter to the Interior Department as Secretary Sally Jewell and her staff wrestle with proposals to reform the way the federal government charges private companies to extract taxpayer-owned coal.

“We are concerned that the administration does not yet have a plan to address its obligation to ensure not just a fair return based on current market prices but also its obligation to mitigate the negative impacts of federal coal,” the Democrats wrote.

“Until the market price for coal reflects its true cost to society, taxpayers will continue to bear the costs of more extreme weather, collapsed ecosystems, stranded infrastructure, increased incidences of heart and lung disease, and other effects of climate change.”

Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Coal from federal land accounts for 40 percent of the country’s production and is estimated to cause about 14 percent of the United States’ energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Jewell called this year for an “honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal coal program,” including its contribution to climate and whether taxpayers are getting a commensurate price for coal.

But communities that rely on coal for jobs and cheap power have pushed back in federal listening sessions, as has the coal industry.

The National Mining Association argues that taxpayers would lose out from any fee increase because companies will get their coal elsewhere.

Tags Climate change Coal Interior Department Maria Cantwell

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