Land Board Attempts to Buy Silence on Otter Creek
The Otter Creek leases were approved today on a 4-1 vote, with Denise Juneau, State Superintendent of Public Instruction the lone dissent vote.
Denise Juneau is a visionary for the land and trust stewardship in Montana. Many people have nothing but thanks for her today after her dissent.
Big Sky High School students, too, were there to provide testimony, and they were fabulous. I’m glad that Missoulians were so well represented.
The Button Valley Bugle tries to put some lipstick on it, explaining that there will be other opportunity to comment on other phases. Me? I’m not up to it.
The Editor also points to the “bonus” payment, an amendment offered by Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – and increase of .15/ton over the minimum bid of .10/ton. This “bonus” payment is to go directly to the schools, over and above the funding for K-12 that is set by the legislature.
As BVB points out, whether the legislature is going to be OK with that is another thing…..
It all sounds good upfront, huh? A bonus payment to the schools of what I think Bullock referred to as $35,000,000 (and feel free to correct). It’ll be interesting to see how that all works out since in practical terms, the legislature is just going to fund the schools the barest of minimums, knowing that that extra cash is coming in to actually fund the schools in a meaningful way. Beyond that, a “bonus fund” seems ripe for corruption – kinda like how the federal government was found out in their own oil and minerals revenues department.
Make no mistake – that “bonus” payment is intended to buy the silence of the citizens – “it’s for the schools,” and “it’s for the children,” how can anyone object? What’s a little arsenic in the water? What’s a billion tons of CO2?
Is this a precedent? Will we see this with every project that brings out packed hearings and reams of paper in objection to the project? Screw degradation, well call the “bonus” payment mitigation.
Today the minimum bid was set for the coal lease. That minimum bid is 10 cents, with an over-and-above bonus payment of 15 cents per ton. The bid period is 45 days.
Much of the criticism was concerning the value of the coal. Theoretically, you’d think that the minimum price set for that coal was the going market rate, right? I mean, the state wouldn’t sell its stuff under market, right? So it’ll be interesting to see how quick Arch Coal grabs at a minimum bid that is now essentially 250% of what is presumably the market price.
In other words, if they jump at that price, one has to wonder whether the state was indeed – as some had suggested – subsidizing the industry.
45 days or so will tell.
Not only that – but the legislature can argue that the minimum bid was guaranteed by the “bonus” payment, robbing the legislature of the full amount of funds that should be available for legislative funding since anyone bidding on the coal was unable to avoid the “bonus” payment.
Time may tell a lot of things, I guess.