Final Push on Public Comment for Otter Creek Coal Leases
Left in the West’s Yellowstone Kelly has a post up predicting tomorrow’s state Land Board decision regarding the leasing of the Otter Creek coal leases in eastern Montana.
I won’t be so bold as to make a prediction – and even if I were, it wouldn’t be the 4-1 supposition that Yellowstone Kelly put up, mainly due to my continued hope that Montana’s 5 highest elected officials will see the sense in their party’s platform that supports clean energy and the lunacy in bringing up a billion tons of coal from the ground. Someone’s gonna burn it, and it’s gonna be dirty and that is an unchanging fact.
Not only do we – do Democrats – have a responsibility to our school children, we have a responsibility to the environment. Leasing 1 billion tons of coal is not environmentally responsible.
Sec. of State Linda McCulloch can speak all she wants about funding the school children, but she makes that statement without any regards to the other income potentials to the Otter Creek tracts – income that can be cleaner and sustainable (as opposed to mining for coal).
In fact, the decision on Otter Creek has been framed as being “for the children” and “for the schools” – and anyone saying that is taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge concerning trust land revenue and how it effects school funding. It’s irresponsible, and it is dangerously close to being untruthful.
Let’s say this to be clear: Leasing the Otter Creek tracts will have NO direct effect on the funding levels for schools. That is a fact, pointed out aptly enough by MEA-MFT president Eric Feaver MEA-MFT is the union which represents teachers, and has been behind repeated calls for increased funding to the state’s K-12 schools.
Funding for schools is set by the legislature. Revenue from any income generated on school trust land is deposited in the trust (which is really what having a trust is all about) and the interest is what may be used to fund schools. It is the interest, and that amount it what helps fund schools. What is available and what the legislature uses are completely independent of each other.
Montana’s citizens – and its press – would do well to better understand the school trust and the school funding system. It’s complex – I won’t pretend to be an expert – but I will say that hearing what I’ve heard from a number of elected officials has made me cringe over the years.
Leasing of the Otter Creek tracts has along list of ramifications – degradation to the environment, degradation to water quality…condemnations under governmental actions of eminent domain – all of which being with the destructive act of bringing the stuff up out of the ground.
Help out the many ranchers who live in and near the Otter Creek tracts that will be effected, and write a short email to the Land Board members tonight and let them know that leasing the tracts is a bad, bad idea. Monday’s meeting is 9, so time’s a wastin’ people – get ‘er done:
Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, firstname.lastname@example.org
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov
Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact email@example.com
State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov
OR you could cut and past these into your email: email@example.com; OPISupt@mt.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.
For more information on Otter Creek, you can put the words “otter” or “Tongue” into our search here (over there on the rigth) or, even better, head on over to The Button Valley Bugle and do the same. The Editor at The BV Bugle has done the finest of jobs in covering the issues on Otter Creek – and both of us have peppered our posts with plenty of links providing additional sources of information. In fact, I see The Editor has a “final push” post up too – titled “Otter Creek and Utter Rhetoric” that shouldn’t be missed.