Rosebud County Montana has a population of around 10,000 hardworking folks. Many of those good people work in the coal industry, either mining the stuff at the Rosebud Mine or burning it at the Colstrip power plant. The output of the Rosebud Mine is currently around 13 million tons a year. That coal is burned in the Colstrip power plant. In the next few years, if Governor Schweitzer has his way, another 1 billion tons of Montana coal from the Otter Creek tracts will enter the pipeline. Unfortunately, the Otter Creek coal is high-sulfur, low-quality coal and cannot be burned in U.S. power plants. That coal will be shipped to Asia where it will be burned in inefficient plants whose power will be used to manufacture goods for the U.S. market and pull jobs out of the U.S. As we in the U.S. try to reduce our reliance on dirty fuel sources, we find more and more ways to increase the profits of our dirty energy producers. The price of coal is actually rising due to exports to developing countries.
As a result, not only are the pollutants that developed countries have tried to reduce finding their way into the atmosphere anyway, but ships chugging halfway around the globe are spewing still more.
What are Rosebud County and Montana prepared to give up to enrich our coal companies? For an example we can turn to Floyd County, Kentucky. In Floyd County, they have mined about 20,000 acres of coal, nearly the same as covered by the Otter Creek coal tracts. In Kentucky, they have obliterated 290 mountains and more than a half million acres. In Floyd County, mining jobs declined 82% between 1980 and 2005 due to mountain-top mining and mechanization and the average wage is only about 63% of the national average. 32% of Floyd county citizens live in poverty.
Mataponi Creek [in Maryland] looks clear in the sunlight, with marsh grasses lining its banks. But some of the coal ash waste from a nearby power plant is also coursing through its waters, and residents are worried it is contaminating their well water.
Toxic coal ash has become a major problem across the country. In 2003, the ash ponds at Colstrip were found to be leaching heavy metals into the local groundwater. Boron concentrations were found to be 13 times the legal limit. Black Lung Disease is on the rise in U.S. coal mines due to new machinery that increases the amount of dust as well as coal miners working longer shifts in order to make a living wage.
To top it all off, we have elected ignorant nitwits to represent us in both Montana and the Nation. Recent surveys have found that more than half of our newly elected congressmen believe that climate change is a myth propagated by “environmental extremists”.
“The earth will end only when God decides it’s time to be over,” Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said while quoting the Bible in a House hearing last year. “This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.” Shimkus is now one of four contenders to head the House Committee on Energy and Commerce when the Republicans take the reins in January.
These are real problems that demand real solutions, sooner rather than later, and we are handing the reins over to people who believe that science is a matter of opinion and that fairies, space aliens and the supernatural control our destiny. Let me assure you that God has nothing whatsoever to do with what is about to befall Rosebud and Powder River Counties. It all falls on us.