Posted: Aug 4, 2012 11:58 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA- Montana's top five elected officials are considering a plan which allows coal mining on state land, but the proposal is already drawing critics.
Signal Peak Energy operates the Bull Mountain Mine near Roundup and the company estimates it could recover nearly 12 million more tons of coal if it expands operation onto neighboring state land.
The Montana Land Board is now asking the public what they think of the plan, and the first round of responses weren't supportive.
"The other day when of those big gusts of Montana wind came up and a coal train was going by a huge gust of coal dust came off that train, a mile long. It came across the highway into my subdivision. I really object to you guys allowing coal mining to go on," Easy Helena resident Jan Siemers said.
The Blue Skies Campaign organized a group to testify against the lease, saying coal is dirty and the Land Board should not be extracting this resource to be shipped overseas. But the group was most frustrated with a recent change in the Land Board meeting schedule.
"Giving the public a three to four day notice and holding this meeting weeks in advance of the previously announced date is no way to promote a democratic, citizen involved event, especially when involving important matters such as the fate of the Signal Peak mine, Corey Bressler with the Blue Skies Campaign commented.
"In no way do I think that this Land Board has demonstrated that we are not taking public comment and that we don't embrace it," Governor Brian Schweitzer responded.
If the Land Board approves the coal lease it's anticipated to generate more than $15 million for the state. Signal Peak is also proposing to expand on neighboring federal land where it's anticipated an additional 29 million tons of coal sit.
We did reach out to Signal Peak Energy for comment, but when we called the number on their website it was disconnected. The corporate offices in Ohio would not confirm they were involved with the mine.