Action Item: Otter Creek Coal at State Land Board Monday, 9 a.m.

by jhwygirl

This comes to me via a reader from Bozeman. I’ve edited it slightly for posting.

The Billings Gazette reports on the Otter Creek coal tracts and the decision to be made Monday by the State Land Board. Letters sent via email are needed NOW to stop the giveaway of state resources to out-of-state corporate coal. Slow down. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean. If coal development happens, it should not happen in rushed manner without benefit to Montana.

This is NOT about jobs. With six big strip mines and a new underground mine, Montana is already the 5th largest coal producer in the country, and that has translated into only 1008 jobs total, according the the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council.

The important thing is write an email NOW and send it to the members of the Montana State Land Board:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111,

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034

OR you could cut and past these into your email:;;;; Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.

Monday’s Land Board hearing begins at 9 a.m., so as you can see action is needed now.

Many have blogged on Otter Creek. For a great start, Button Valley has done a number of pieces. Remember the Tongue River Valley and Maybe We Shouldn’t Otter are two that contain a number of links to other sources, including one to 4&20 hero and Indy columnist extraordinaire George Ochenski.

The Northern Cheyenne, who darn near border the area and who will be affected directly by any development, have – officially – barely endorsed the plan. As you can see from their comment provided to the Land Board earlier this year, they are suspicious that the promises made to them for jobs won’t be followed through. Seeing the facts on jobs from the Montana Coal Council, they should be suspicious.

Despite the official response of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, meetings held this summer showed even less support amongst the tribes, and native American news source Reznet has that perspective.

Coal isn’t clean. Montana is not the Saudi Arabia of coal as the Governor and Arch Coal and Great Northern would want us to believe. Many organizations have been working hard to drive this message home to the Land Board, including Northern Plains Resource Council and the the Montana Environmental Information Center, two very fine organizations that have fought the good fight, taking up against the state in a number of environmental cases and winning. Economists here in the state (and elsewhere) have said the Otter Creek tracts are overvalued.

Arch Coal will now use pressure to get final approval of its leases at the Land Board on Monday. They have no access – they have no railroad. Two significant impediments to that access are the heir to the Mars candy fortune – who has said “NO” to the railroad moving through his property – and FWP, whose board recently denied a request from Great Northern for its railroad through some of its land. Condemnations and eminent domain requests are messy and lengthy. Why should the state lease its land now when not only is access lacking, but once (and if) major impediments are removed, the value of that coal (if there really is value) and the leases themselves will increase immensely?

Please take the time as you read this to send and email and ask the Land Board to say “NO” to Otter Creek until all effects and affects of both the mine and the railroad can be assessed.

Below is the news alert from the Sierra Club.

Dear Friends:

The state of Montana is on the verge of making a decision that will potentially have negative impacts for generations to come. On Thursday November 12, Arch Coal, Inc announced an agreement to lease half of the coal at Otter Creek to construct a new STRIPMINE in the Otter Creek Tracts of southeastern Montana. The state of Montana retains ownership of the remaining coal at Otter Creek, and it is clear that Arch Coal and its partner, Great Northern Properties, will be pressuring our state to lease the remaining coal at a bargain basement price. The State Land Board will conduct a public hearing on Otter Creek this Monday November 15th at 9AM at the Capitol Building, room 303.

What can you do to help? If possible come to the Land Board meeting to tell the government that we do not want another big polluting coal mine to strip Otter Creek of its uniquely beautiful landscape. We wish to protect our water resources from these mining operations which waste millions of gallons and pollute the surrounding waterways. We wish to protect Montanans and the surrounding states from harmful air pollutants caused by the process of mining and global warming caused by burning coal.

Economically speaking, the market for coal is currently depressed; the appraisal the State received is deeply flawed; and the technology to control the emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming is in the preliminary stages. This would also lead to the construction of the disastrous Tongue River Railroad, which will severely impact family farms and ranches along the Tongue River, while posing a unique flooding threat to Miles City.

Arch Coal, Inc. and Great Northern Properties only have to please their shareholders in this short sighted move. Montanans we will have to deal with the effects of this stripmine everyday and for generations to come.

Together with groups like MEIC and the Northern Plains Resource Council, we can put an end to the stripmine at Otter Creek before it ever begins. Please join us for this critical Land Board meeting at the Capitol Building, room 303, this Monday November 15, at 9:00AM.

Can’t make it to the meeting? Please take the time to call or send an email to the state Land Board asking them to say no to any lease of our state lands for this destructive, short-sighted purpose.

  1. Dear Montana Land Board:

    Please slow down. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean. If coal development happens, it should happen in a deliberate and careful manner, NOT rushed without substantial benefit to Montana. Otter Creek is a very valuable resource – and valuable for more than just the coal that is there.

    Coal mining is NOT about jobs. With six big strip mines and a new underground mine, Montana is already the 5th largest coal producer in the country, and that has translated into only 1008 jobs total, according the the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council website. The mechanization of coal mining means that most jobs go to out-of-state miners already licensed to operate the equipment, workers put out of jobs elsewhere. Coal mining is machine-intensive, not labor intensive.

    Restoration remains a promise, not a reality, for the vast majority of Montana land already disturbed by coal mining, and most of the restoration to date has not been with native species for natural habitat.

    Please consider Montana coal lands in terms of the future – the future of the land and people of Montana. Ignore the industry lobbyists. Serve Montana.


    • Thanks for commenting, Anne. I hope the Land Board holds off. Given the new position from the EPA on coal, one has to wonder why anyone would invest in coal. Whether you are the extractor or the user, coal is going to get far more costly.

      Ridiculous in a state where wind energy is so plentiful.

      You make mention of the (just) 1000 jobs that the current coal industry has created for Montana. That’s .1% of the total jobs in Montana. How willing are we to sell out for “jobs”? How willing are we to pillage our environment and our water and our air for a pithy handful of jobs?

      And for what? Until we can show meaningful long-term economic benefit to the citizens of Montana (and not a handful of out-of-state investors), let’s hope the Land Board says NO.

  2. The best time to transition to clean energy is now. Step by step, decision by decision: go clean. Building more dirty-energy infrastructure is not the way to go.

  3. Big Swede

    Interesting that you guys now side with the billionaire Mars and are against the overwhelming unemployed Northern Cheyenne, who voted for their leader based on his prodevelopment platform.

    Whether it’s national policies or local, your inability to realize the importance of employment, well paid employment, will do more damage to your “Reservation” type agendas.

    • Odd, I’d think you’d be siding with the Mars billionaire capitalist. Now that I see everything isn’t black and white….

      It seems you missed one of the larger points of this post, Big Swede – “importance of employment, well paid employment” – that’s a fallacy. Montana is the 5th largest producer of coal, and yet coal employs less than .1% of our population.

      When you think of the coal producing states, are you thinking high quality of living? Because that’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when I think “West Virginia” or “Kentucky” or “Pennsylvania” or “Wyoming”…

      There’s capitalism and there’s economic growth. Supporting Otter Creek supports capitalism for the few – it does not support economic growth in terms of real employment and permanent long term investment in Montana.

      The tribal citizens are getting that too. The official letter alludes to the government keeping its promise, Big Swede, and how many of the dozens (WOW!) of jobs that Otter Creek creates will got to tribals? Then think about how many of the higher paying jobs will go to the tribes? Frankly, how many of the higher paying jobs will go to Montanans? Or will most of those higher jobs go to their engineers and managers from out of state that will be transferred here to protect the interests of the companies that they work for?

      Not buying it, Big Swede.

  4. Scagmegainite


  1. 1 More Reasons Why Montana Otter Not the Coals Leases on Otter Creek « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] the mining of Otter Creek is bad policy for the state and bad terms for the state trust. You can find contact information here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Land Board Delays Otter Creek Coal Leases […]

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