Coal in Montana: the people vs. the politicians
Fighting to Keep Coal in the Ground, Montana Activists Score a Global Victory Against Climate ChangeBy Alexis Bonogofsky, Truthout
Sunday, 01 November 2015
If you are concerned about the climate, you should be paying attention to what is happening in southeast Montana.
Part of keeping the global temperature rise as low as we can is keeping Montana coal in the ground.
To avoid catastrophic climate change, a recent study in the journal Nature found that 92 percent of coal reserves in the United States must stay in the ground to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius. Montana has the largest amount of recoverable coal in the United States, close to 120 billion tons - almost one-quarter of known US reserves.
Arch Coal, a major US coal mining and processing company, has been pushing hard to gain access to Montana's coal reserves since 2010.
"Montana could be the energy capital of the United States if the state government and the state's community desire that to happen," Arch Coal CEO Steven Leer told the Billings Gazette in 2010 after his company leased 1.5 billion tons of coal in the Otter Creek Valley in southeast Montana.
To this day, however, no permits have been issued for a coal mine in Otter Creek.
The mining project does not suffer from a lack of support from Montana's politicians or from a regulatory environment unfriendly to their ambitions. What they suffer from is a severe lack of community support. There is a dedicated community of people in southeast Montana who fiercely love their land and have organized quietly and resolutely, keeping billions of tons of coal in the ground. Their repeated victories in bringing ranchers, Northern Cheyenne tribal members, Amish farmers and others together to fight the coal mines constitute one of the most inspiring - and most overlooked - stories of climate change activism in this decade.