The Great Falls Tribune ran an article this morning about the upcoming lease of the Otter Creek coal reserves just to the west of the Cheyenne Reservation in south central Montana. A new appraisal finds that the state could get as much as $1.4 billion for the coal over the next forty years. What struck me were quotes from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer:
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Monday he wants a mine built, but only if the state gets top dollar for its assets. He said any environmental concerns were superseded by the state’s obligation to bring in revenues from its land.
“We can only sell it one time,” Schweitzer said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize the value of school trust land.”
Yep, that’s our governor. Damn the environment and full speed ahead. I guess we can hope that he was misquoted, but his past record on the subject does not bode well for that prospect. So, we will get about a buck a ton for around a billion tons of coal over four decades. How much does that leave for schools after we finish upgrading roads for all the truck traffic, helping the coal companies build their railroad, mediate the environmental damage and help out all the small communities that will be impacted? I suspect not much, especially if we are to give the coal companies a 50% break on their taxes as the legislature seems to want. At least the president of Great Northern Properties is willing to admit that the outcome of the political debate in Helena is a “coin toss”. You can expect the Bugle to be there for the toss. I call heads.