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DENVER (AP) — Ten Western mountain towns have banded together to urge coal companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to help the communities deal with the effects of climate change.
Leaders of the towns in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico signed a letter to be sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other federal officials asking for changes in the system for collecting royalties on coal.
Half the money now collected by the federal government goes to states for local distribution. Coal companies can pay royalties based on percentages of initial sales to subsidiaries or at reduced rates. The federal program is already being reviewed.
The towns — Aspen, Ophir, Ridgway, Buena Vista, Carbondale. Leadville, Telluride and Dillon in Colorado, Park City, Utah, and Taos, New Mexico — want royalties to be based on the full market price of coal at the time it is sold to power plants.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said it would be inappropriate to raise royalty payments by an industry already suffering from production losses and lost jobs due to flawed state and federal laws and regulations designed to drive coal out of the energy mix.
Coal is a major source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and the towns are worried about how consequences of climate change such as lower snowfall and wildfires will impact tourism, a major part of their economy, The Denver Post reported.
"If there is no consistent snow, due to global warming, then we need to look at other forms of tourism," Leadville Mayor Jaime Steuver said.
Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said his town wants any money it might get from changes to be used to build solar and wind power systems.