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Arch Enemy

You may remember Arch Coal. They are the nice folks who now own 1.5 billion tons of Montana coal in the Otter Creek tracts for which they bribed the state with $86 million plus royalties. Well, it seem that the coal colossus has a bit of a problem in West Virginia.

The Environmental Protection Agency revoked the permit for one of the nation’s largest mountaintop-removal coal mining projects on Thursday, saying the mine would have done unacceptable damage to rivers, wildlife and communities in West Virginia. It was the first time the agency had rescinded a valid clean water permit for a coal mine.

EPA said the mine would pollute the streams, endanger human health and ruin the environment downstream by blowing the tops off of nearly 3,000 acres of mountains and dumping the resulting rubble in stream channels killing fish, amphibians and other wildlife. Of course, Arch Coal saw the controversy somewhat differently;

…the mining company and politicians in West Virginia expressed fury, saying the action was an unprecedented federal intrusion, an economic catastrophe for the state and a dangerous precedent for all regulated industries.

Which may be the first time I have seen a mining company admit in print that they are actually a “regulated industry”. The company was “shocked and dismayed” by the agency’s “onslaught” in revoking their permit. Yes, these are the same people whom your governor believes can responsibly mine thousands of acres of Montana using mountain-top-removal techniques, build a railroad the length of the Tongue River, and create a new mega-port on the Columbia River to ship the coal to China. All with little or no impact to the environment.

Of course, the West Virginia decision is not the only conundrum facing the coal giant. A Montana judge recently gave environmental groups the go-ahead to sue over approval of the Otter Creek deal. Four environmental groups claim that the state should have considered Montana’s environmental policy act prior to leasing the coal.

And, since the market for poor quality Montana coal is all but non-existent in the U.S. Arch needs to find someplace to sell their dirty product. They are in hopes that China will take most of it off their hands since that country has fewer environmental regulations and no problem with burning the high-polluting Otter Creek coal. To that end, Arch has bought in to construction of a mega-port on the Columbia River. But, that’s not going as planned either. Washington State is now saying that they need to consider the environmental consequences of burning all that polluting coal before they can permit the port site. According to an appeal filed by Earthjustice;

They refused to see the impacts of increased coal mining, more trains roaring through the Columbia Gorge and the effects of mercury on children and adults living here and far away

Of course, Montana and Arch Coal are just incensed, INCENSED I say, by governments and pesky radical environmentalists meddling in their business, “The frustrating part of this whole thing is having a state entity resisting the development of something based on the alleged impacts half a world away,” said Bud Clinch of the Montana Coal Council.” How dare the “state entity“? “Alleged impacts” on the other side of the globe. Like global warming and polluted air that will drift over Washington and Montana.

Over in Seattle, at every single intersection, on every street corner, they’ve got a Starbucks coffee or a Seattle’s Best, and they’re drinking all that hot coffee and talking about how bad that coal is,” [Governor Brian] Schweitzer said. “All the while, that coffee was heated with coal electricity that was burned in Colstrip and put in wires and sent to all four corners of that intersection in Seattle for 40 years. That’s fine, how do you do?”

How do YOU do Governor? I hate to be the one to say “I told ya so“, but this was a really bad idea from the start and it can only get worse.


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