It may not be surprising that the Montana Land Board’s recent 3-2 vote to approve leasing 570 million tons of state-owned coal for development in the Otter Creek Valley has proven controversial.

After all, protesters were arrested and removed from the board’s meeting room on the day of the vote.

The lease gives Arch Coal of St. Louis a 10-year window to develop the coal field — which lies in a pristine valley about 150 miles east of Billings — along with its lease of another 730 million tons of privately owned coal, which is interspersed with the state coal.

It included a nearly $86 million up front bid to pay for that window, amounting to 15 cents per ton.

Proponents say the mine would generate $5 billion in tax revenue and royalties over the life of a mine and approximately $250 million a year once the mine is operating.

That money would help schools and generate jobs, they say, and the upfront bid will help prevent cuts in the state’s tight budget.

Opponents counter that the mine would despoil a beautiful area and damage its water resources and add to air pollution and global warming. Some also say the state could have gotten more money for the bid; it had initially asked for 25 cents per ton.

We asked readers’ opinion in our Question of the Week:

“Do you agree with the Land Board’s decision to approve leasing 570 million tons of state-owned coal for development into a mine in southeastern Montana’s Otter Creek Valley for 15 centers per ton?

Seventy-five percent of the responses, 248 of them, were “no.” The other 25 percent of the responses to the unscientific poll, 84 votes, were “yes.”

Here are some of the responses we received:

- No. This was a giveaway to the company wanting to “buy” our natural resources. The current going rate is around 25 cents per ton, and our governor sold it for a mere 15 cents per ton.

This is a very short-sighted deal, playing on the immediate gratifications of some constituents who want no cuts in their line items, while ignoring the long term environmental, aesthetic and health-related factors that surround coal abstraction.

- We should be glad there’s a chance in this day and age for good jobs and some money going into the (state) budget.

- Not one square inch of beautiful Montana for coal development. This is short sighted. There is no proven technique to sequester CO2. We ship our coal to brown sky China and India? Dumb. The longer we put off alternative energy development, the greater and quicker the damage to the planet and ourselves.

(7) comments

Therightchange

What will the opinion of the people matter when Obama has to sell Montana to China and Japan to cover the huge debt that he is making. Time for us to learn orential languages and far eastern culture so we can survive in a Obama world.

HakonMontag
HakonMontag

Interesting point there from Therightchange...

We bought several of our states so why can't they be sold lock stock and barrel to pay off all of the National debt.

Let's vote...I vote to sell California and New York...

dollerholler

The facts of this letter are just not true. Firstly this "pristine valley" is the tiny Otter Creek valley. It is a poverty stricken area where most people are hanging on by their finger tips to ranches that have been in their families since their ancesters homesteaded there a hundred years ago. I was born and raised there and almost all the old families have lost their ranches. Global warming is a unproven theory that even the scientists who are working on the solution have admitted simply isn't true. And as for the water quality..well the area is downstream from Decker coal. And there is no pollution in the water. Why? becuase modern coal mining practices are enviromentally safe and even beneficial in many cases. The mines spend millions of dollars in improving the habitat around their mines. And as for more money for the coal. We tried that remember? This is the second round of bidding.
Just across the imaginary line we call the state line in Campell county Wyoming they let their coal be developed. They have plenty of employment, their kids have better schools, their government services are better, they have hospitals, parks, emergency sevices but most of all they have oppertunity so their childern do not have to leave to make a living.
The only difference between Cambell county Wy and Powder River Couty MT is the people in Wy don't have a bunch of people in western MT keeping them from making a living.

HakonMontag
HakonMontag

dollerholler...absolutely right...

Montucky

Hi Dollerholler. I was very intrigued by your comment comparing the two areas, so I decided to go try and find some data about your claims. You said "The only difference between Cambell county Wy and Powder River Couty MT is the people in Wy don't have a bunch of people in western MT keeping them from making a living." Well, that is one difference. The other difference appears to be environmental quality and pollution. This pollution is categorized as a health risk .

Campbell County: Some environmental pollution and some at pretty hazerdous levels. Go here to see: http://scorecard.org/env-releases/county.tcl?fips_county_code=56005#ej

If you scroll down, you find that the contibuting sources of the CANCER RISK , include, in fact, several mines!

BLACK HILLS CORP. - NEIL SIMPSON COMPLEX
PACIFICORP WYODAK PLANT
TRITON COAL CO. L.L.C. NORTH ROCHELLE MINE
CORDERO ROJO COMPLEX
TRITON COAL CO. L.L.C. BUCKSKIN MINE

http://scorecard.org/env-releases/county-facility-ranks.tcl?fips_county_code=56005

shaded

Most are against the Socialist Parasites under- mineing the economy to the point of collapse as has been done in CA, once the worlds 6th largest, now crumbling under $ trillion debt. Their Socialist Parasites demand more, and expect to steal from the other States to feed their aganda, while they outlaw their own oil resources, destroy their own vast agricultural economy, and regulate their industrial base into extinction. The D-bag party that has done this in CA wants a National Socialist program for the rest of US...CA outnumbers MT in the congress 10-1 so it is important for MT to do all it can avoid becoming a 3rd world Colony of the USSA

BillCope

I think there is a general misunderstanding of what the lease actually did. The land board did not sell any of the coal for 15 cents a ton. What happened is that Arch Coal has secured the right to mine the coal for an upfront cost of some $86 million dollars, that by the way is non-refundable. Arch now has to go through the entire permit process and deal with miserable people like the Northern Plains Resource Council scoundrels before it will ever get to mine one shovel full. If Arch does actually mine the coal, it will be sold at market value. Montana will get 15% of that sale price as our coal serverance tax and on the State Owned tracts, it will get another 12% as the mineral royality that will go to the common school fund. Our "reporters" in this state have done a dis-service to Montanan's by not completely describing what exactly a "bonus bid" is and how it works. Anyone who thinks or wails in these blogs that three of the land board members "sold" Montana coal for 15cents a ton is just plain stupid.

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