Poll shows support in West for coal-leasing reform

Poll shows support in West for coal-leasing reform

Residents in the western United States support reforming the federal coal-leasing program.  

According to a new poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling, 64 percent of voters in western coal states support updating the coal-leasing program, including looking at royalty rates for companies and updating the leasing terms.


Fifty-two percent of coal state Westerners support reforming the program so “taxpayers get a fair deal,” according to the survey. Two-thirds say those leases should not go to companies that haven’t cleaned up former mining sites, and 53 percent said a new coal leasing program should do more to protect public lands.

“The thing about this issue that unites a majority of Westerners is they are interested in making sure the government doesn’t waste taxpayer money when it comes to the use of natural resources,” said Chris Saeger, the director of the Western Values Project.

“The thing that unifies people in the center in a number of these coal-producing states is the idea that when publicly owned coal is being used to produce energy or to be sold to produce energy, it should be done transparently and that American taxpayers should get an honest return on that transaction.”

The poll — of 3,017 residents of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Washington — comes as the Interior Department continues its review of the coal-leasing program. Officials are aiming to update the terms of the coal-leasing program for the first time in decades, with the goal of accounting for the impact coal mining has on climate change and the state of the land.

The Obama administration instituted a moratorium on new federal land coal leases during the review, which could take up to three years.

Republicans and coal interests in the West — where most federal coal leases are held — have opposed the review, saying it will hurt coal-mining companies.

The survey was released Monday, the day before federal officials hold a public hearing on the coal review in Seattle.