If the United States undertakes actions to address the risks of climate change, the use of coal in the power sector will decline rapidly. Twenty-six US counties are classified as “coal-mining dependent,” meaning the coal industry is a major employer. In these areas, the industry is also an important contributor to local government finances through a complex system of property, severance, sales, and income taxes; royalties and lease bonuses for production on state and federal lands; and intergovernmental transfers. Local governments—including coal-reliant counties—have yet to grapple with the implications of climate policies for their financial conditions. This paper examines the implications of a carbon-constrained future on coal-dependent local governments in the United States. It considers the outlook for US coal production over the next decade under such conditions and explores the risk this will pose for county finances. The paper also considers the responsibilities of jurisdictions to disclose these risks, particularly when they issue bonds, and the actions leaders can take to mitigate the risks.
This publication was originally posted by the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy on July 15, 2019.