That’s what many said to the State Land Board (and to 3 of its 5 members, Governor Schweitzer, Secretary of State Linda McDulloch and Auditor Monica Lindeen) before then went ahead anyway and approved the Otter Creek coal leases.
Not before – let’s not forget – a poorly orchestrated show between Governor Schweitzer and Linda McCulloch, who first added a bonus bid of 15 cents/ton. Four of ’em played along in that one (with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau casting the lone dissenting vote), but in the end, even Attorney General Steve Bullock changed his mind, seeing through the corporate welfare that was, eventually, approved – a 40% drop in price (and let’s not feign that this was in any way a “bid” given that only one entity could competitively bid on it, given the land-locked nature of the state lands involved and the fact that the bidder is the one that land-locks the land) along with a $57 million instant subsidy of the coal corporate giants.
Can’t forget, either, that a railroad that will also need to be condemned through Montana’s eminent domain laws – that’s condemnation of private land in the interest of a private corporate entity, folks – a railroad that will save that private corporate entity well in the range of $100 million a year in hauling costs from Wyoming’s extensive coal fields down south.
Don’t try and tell me that coal isn’t subsidized – a industry as old as the world is still gaining both federal and state subsidy to operate. Ridiculous.
Oh, yeah – there was more. The votes were disappointing (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Monica I-campaigned-on-a-biodiesel-bus Lindeen). Even Button Valley was getting an overload of it, as was I, as Governor Brian Schweitizer headed out around the state pushing on communities to sign a oath to coal in order to get their legislatively appropriated stimulus money.
An illegal transgression that was largely overlooked – as was the stashing of that Otter Creek bid money in this year’s general budget instead of going to schools as it is legally obligated to do (along with that whole the-legislature-is-the-only-lawful-appropriator-of-money thing). It’s something that is coming home to roost, those illegal transgressions, and quickly becoming a private joke amongst many of us who railed against both of these things when they were occurring.
But we’ll leave that for another post, and the real journalists who are already asking the questions. Enable once, shame on you..enable twice, shame again…but sure as hell don’t get indignant about it the third time around…
Enter now Northern Plains Resource Council, the Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club, who collectively filed two lawsuits this week challenging the Otter Creek coal lease approval.
NPRC and WF said that the state land board failed to adequately analyze the environmental effects of the project. MEIC and SC challenged on the basis of the economic and global warming effects of the project.
There are a myriad of problems with Otter Creek. I’m mystified as to the embracing – in a state that seems to champion individual property rights – of a project that will railroad over the private property rights of individuals (pun intended).
I’m also mystified that a state – in a time of general budget distress not only internally, but nationwide – would dish out such corporate welfare to the detriment of our very own children’s education funding.
What’s the real shame is that Montana’s citizens – and its very worthy non-profits – have to sue to get the state to meet its constitutional obligations outlined in what is known in our state constitution as the Montana Environmental Policy Act.
This can not and should not be taken lightly. I don’t care how many laws that the legislature passes or tries to pass attacking it. This is a constitutional guarantee. Guarantee. And this word can not be overemphasized enough. This isn’t some old state constitution. It is a modern document, with words that were carefully chosen, discussed and debated in modern many-remember-them times. Guarantee was not a word chosen or placed lightly, and it leaves little room for discussion.
It is the law of the land. Our state agencies, our land board and our Governor all have the obligation to make sure that guarantee is met each and every day. Shame on them for having to be sued to comply with constitutional obligations.