Orient Express: Will Montana become a coal colony? – July 28, 2011

Allison Roberts News

The IR recently wrote about the lawsuit against the decision (of a bare majority) of the Land Board to lease Otter Creek valley for strip-mining by Arch Coal Inc. (Missouri). This decision was made without evaluating environmental and health impacts to our climate and community.

The impacts to the health and well-being of Montanans will be myriad and substantial. Most apparent is the climate crisis. With the exception of the fossil-fuel industry, which, like the tobacco industry before it, is manufacturing doubt about the harmfulness of their products (oil, gas and, dirtiest of all, coal), people are noticing the “weird” weather accompanying the unprecedented accumulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere: record flooding across the country, massive storms, historic droughts and heat waves in the southwest.

Less obvious is the harm from shipping the coal to Asia, as Arch plans to do. This would mean 10 more coal trains through Helena — daily — spewing diesel smoke, spilling coal dust and stopping traffic, including emergency vehicles, at Montana and Benton avenue crossings, among others. And if coal companies realize plans to ramp up exports to Asia from Wyoming mines, more than 40 additional coal trains could hew Helena each day.

Rather than becoming an energy colony and strip-mining the state for export, Montana should be building the renewable energy infrastructure of tomorrow, to spur our economy and run our own factories — without running out. Then Montana could profit without compromising our climate and community.

— Shiloh Hernandez, Helena

Helena Independent Record