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Running away from Otter Creek

There have been several articles about Otter Creek and coal in recent days that bear mention. Nobel laureate and UM climate specialist Steve Running and retired UM economist Tom Power addressed members of the State Land Board on Tuesday on the foolhardiness of selling Otter Creek coal. Running “didn’t mince words” according to the Missoulian. “Are we going to burn another billion tons of coal, or aren’t we?” “That, to me, is where all this global theory (on climate change) comes right back down to this kind of decision-making. Here we are in Montana making a real-life decision that is exactly this decision multiplied worldwide.

Tom Power “also urged the Land Board to demand a more detailed appraisal of the Otter Creek coal, analyzing coal markets more closely. Power said Otter Creek’s high-sodium coal may very well compete with existing Montana coal mines, hurting revenue streams from those mines.”

In another telling commentary in the Great Falls Tribune yesterday, Wally McRae, Montana poet and philosopher extrondiaire, who ranches near the Otter Creek tracts, sees a double standard over our outrage to any proposed coal development in the headwaters of the Flathead River and our opposite reaction to the same development occurring along Otter Creek. “Any similar development east of Billings — however disruptive to the sociology, culture, envi­ronment and long-term eco­nomic viability – is met with great enthusiasm.

If the State Land Board leases the Otter Creek Coal at a sub­sidy rate, the savings to the developers will finance the Tongue River Railroad, a private company, which will then use federal condemnation under eminent domain to take our land, thus fulfilling one of the goals of the North Central Power Study. No problem. After all, its east of Billings where things don’t count.

Montana DEQ on Tuesday, declared that they will propose new CO2 limits in Montana. In response to a recent EPA finding that global warming pollution endangered the health and welfare of Americans and must be reduced, DEQ said that they will propose that the Board of Environmental Review adopt the EPA-recommend­ed threshold of 25,000 tons per year, regulating any facility that emits at least 25,000 tons of CO2 per year.

EPA has cocked the hammer on Congress to do something about greehouse gases and do it soon or EPA will begin regulation under their authority by the Clean Air Act. At the same time, Montana is proposing for sale, an additional two billion tons of the dirtiest fuel known to man. Coal is responsible for more than 50% of all U.S. CO2 emissions. Montana already produces 44 million tons of coal per year and we ship 2/3 of that out of state. Great Northern Properties, who own half of the Otter Creek reserves, believes that they can market the coal overseas creating no competition or problems for Montana coal producers. “According to the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Com­mittee, Montana’s 2010 CO2 emissions are expected to be 49.8 million tons. The state’s eight coal-fired power plants account for about half of that amount,”

The world is meeting in Copenhagen this week to try to agree on some kind of plan for reducing global CO2 emissions before it is too late. Many believe that it may be too late already. Meanwhile, in Montana, we want to increase our output of the worlds most polluting fuel all for a few dollars that the legislature will spend in one session. We are totally absorbed with worry about leaving our children with an increased debt load rather than worrying whether or not they will inherit a planet that is fit to live on. Is this really the direction we want to go? Please contact the State Land Board. They will decide on Dec. 21 whether or not to lease another 600 million tons of coal from the Otter Creek tracts. Don’t leave our children with this legacy.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

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 doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

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