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Maybe We Shouldn’t Otter

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and the State Land Board wants to hear your comments on the development of the Otter Creek coal tracts southeast of Ashland. You have until May 22 to submit comments to Monte Mason, the Minerals Management Bureau Chief. The Land Board will likely consider the comments at their June 15th meeting.

Dept. Of Natural Resources and Conservation
P.O. Box 201601
Helena, MT 59620-2684

Fax: 406-444-2684
email: mmason@mt.gov

This ain’t no new story. It is a convoluted and long-running parable involving greed, power and money that has endured for years and refuses to die.  In recent days, The Bugle covered the story of the state-released appraisal of the Otter Creek coal. Politics, Peaks, and Valleys had an excellent article about the controversy. George Ochenski also covered the story in a recent article for the Missoula Independent.

In 2002, Montana took over about 10,000 acres of coal in the Otter Creek tracts as part of a federal deal to halt the development of the New World Mine on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. The state owns approximately half – just over 600 million tons of the near 1 billion tons of recoverable coal- in a checkerboard ownership. Most of the remaining coal is owned by Great Northern Properties. Governor Schweitzer has made developing Otter Creek a priority for his administration. Schweitzer would like to see the coal used in a coal-to-liquids plant. There are plans for an on-site, or nearby, conventional coal-fired power plant, piplines and power transmission lines. Mike Gustafson, Bechtel Enterprises and Kennecott Energy have a permit to build a railroad up the Tongue River to Miles City, but have been unable to find funding until there is coal to haul. This proposal is poised to have dramatic and striking effect on the Montana environment in coming years. Your opinion is important. Your state constitution exhorts “the state and each person” to “maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.” So, pay attention and make your voice heard.

This story has more facets and angles than a Dan Brown novel. I encourage Bugle readers to bone up on the subject starting with the links above and let DNRC and the State Land Board know your opinion on what we should do with this dirty resource. Who knows, if you happen to be a large energy company with a bulging legal staff, your comments may actually be taken to heart.

One Response

  1. […] 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 […]

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