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Otter Creek; Buried Treasure or Sleeping Dog?

It was Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister to King George I of Britain who said “Let sleeping dogs lie” in reference to the American colonies. Better to walk softly than risk getting bit. He also said that, “Every man has his price“. It seems that fourteen Montana republicans have found their price in the Otter Creek coal tracts.

A letter to the State Land Board by fourteen eastern Montana legislators authored by Rep. Tom McGillvray of Billings says, “It is time to stop leaving our treasure buried in the ground!” Appropriately enough, all fourteen are Republican state legislators. They believe that the Land Board should ignore warnings that burning the more than 1 billion tons of coal will accelerate global warming during the very time that the world is trying to find ways to reduce the disastrous effects of burning carbon. Of course, being true conservatives, the gang of fourteen don’t believe in science or the evidence of change in their own state. ““I just have serious doubt, based on the scientists out there who are disputing that fact. I don’t think it’s a given, settled science.” McGillvray states in the letter. For republicans, it’s always about the money. Ignore the fact that we will strip mine 20,000 acres of Montana. Ignore that we will destroy the Tongue River Valley and steal the land and livelihood of our neighbors farming and ranching along the river with the Tongue River Railroad. Pay no attention to the fact that impacts of coal pollutants fall disproportionately on children, contributing to decreased lung development,  asthma, increases in infant mortality, reduced IQ and mental retardation. Who cares how many people we kill or what harm we do to the planet when, “The economic impact of developing the Otter Creek coal tracts and the resulting tax revenue that will provide funding for the future well-being of the state of Montana is unprecedented.” It’s all about the money.

I won’t go into the science of climate change. No matter what Tom McGillvray and the gang of fourteen say, the science is settled. The EPA website along with thousands of reputable scientists worldwide say,

The global temperature record shows an average warming of about 1.3°F (0.74ºC) over the past century. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Within the past 30 years, the rate of warming across the globe has been approximately three times greater than the rate over the last 100 years. Past climate information suggests the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years in the Northern Hemisphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that warming of the Earth’s climate system is now “unequivocal” (i.e., “definite”).

The Bugle has covered the Otter Creek many times in the past. I do however agree with one phrase in the letter, “It is time for action… ” It’s time to let the State Land Board know that now is not the time for Montana to be contemplating pouring more than a billion tons of the worlds most polluting energy source into the market. The human costs are too great and the returns too small. The Board will meet next week to decide on leasing our share of the low quality coal from Otter Creek. Contact members of the Land Board and let them know that now is the time to let sleeping dogs [and coal] lie.

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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One Response

  1. […] December 16, 2009 in Brian Schweitzer, Coal, Denise Juneau, Economy & Business, Energy, Monica Lindeen, Montana, Water Quality (jhwygirl) Public comment for the proposed leasing of the state’s Otter Creek coal closes soon. A public hearing, continued from last month, is next Monday. I question our state’s commitment to green energy. You don’t pull a billion tons of coal out of the ground to look at it. Coal is filthy. Someone’s burning it somewhere. Ironically, Otter Creek is an area identified as viable for wind energy. The Button Valley Bugle (who has been on a roll lately) reminds us that some dogs are best left sleeping. […]

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