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Nothing to see here. Move along.

As expected, the State Land Board just voted 4-1 to lease the Otter Creek coal tracts. After a lively public comment period that ran more than ten to one against leasing, the vote fell pretty much the way everyone said it would. The sole No vote came from Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public Instruction, citing the harm we are doing to future generations. Her vote is telling since Montana schools are supposed to be the primary beneficiary of the coal money.

There was a lot of talk about “fiduciary responsibility” and likely a lot of drooling among the board members. Most of the board members stated loudly and often that there would be NO state subsidies for the Tongue River Railroad. I don’t really see that as a factor that would stop the line from being built if the coal is mined. The benefit of the rail line is too great for the coal companies. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch proposed the lone amendment upping the minimum bonus bid from $0.10 to $0.25 per ton. The amendment also says that all money raised by the bonus bid will go  directly to schools and that the legislature is not allowed to offset or reduce the bid money with reductions in money for schools from the general fund. I suspect that the legislature will have something to say about that. They also placed a 45-day limit on the bid so that they will know the outcome by the Feb. meeting.

There are still several steps left before the coal can be mined, but those steps also have to be approved by the same folks who just voted to accept a $150 million bribe from Arch Coal. It’s not time to give up yet however, on stopping the mines. Many good reasons were brought up by commenters on why the mining should not proceed to the permit stage. There will be ample opportunity at each stage for Montanans to keep pounding on our state leaders to help them see the light. We refuse to give up 20,000 acres of Montana, the Tongue River Valley and our children’s health without a fight.

One Response

  1. […] Button Valley Bugle tries to put some lipstick on it, explaining that there will be other opportunity to comment on other phases. Me? I’m not up […]

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