Citizens Hearing: Speak Out Against Massive Coal Mine Expansion
Thank you everyone who made it out to the Citizens Hearing on February 15th in Missoula. If you were unable to attend and would still like to submit comments please use the following DEQ webform to do so.
In the box that reads “The Nature of Your Comment” put “Western Energy Area F EIS.”
Below is the background information that was handed out at the Citizens Hearing.
Donald Trump’s Department of Interior is considering an enormous coal mine expansion and this Thursday in Missoula is your chance to speak out against it.
The Rosebud coal mine, which feeds the Colstrip coal-fired power plant, is seeking a massive expansion known as Area F. This would allow the mine to expand to an additional 6,746 acres and mine an additional 70 million tons of coal. If approved, this expansion could feed the coal plant for more than 20 years and add roughly 140 million tons of C02 into the atmosphere.
As you can imagine, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Office of Surface Mining and Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality have cooked the books on this proposal. They are only holding one public hearing and it is only in Colstrip where they are sure to get unmitigated support.
To make sure that Montanans who care about climate change and clean water have a chance to be heard, we’ve scheduled our own Citizens Hearing in Missoula. At the hearing you will have a chance to speak out and we will make sure your oral and written comments are put in the official public record.
WHAT: Citizens Hearing on massive coal mine expansion
WHEN: Thursday, February 15th at 7pm
WHERE: The Bitterroot Room, Doubletree Hotel Missoula/Edgewater (100 Madison St., Missoula, Montana 59802)
CO-SPONSORS: MEIC, Sierra Club, Montana Conservation Voters, 350 Montana, MontPIRG, Western Environmental Law Center, and MELT
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/772111776306281
Coal Mine Expansion Facts
This mine expansion is a terrible idea for innumerable reasons, including the following (click here for PDF of these facts):
- The Colstrip plant is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses in the nation, releasing approximately 15 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. All of the coal mined at Rosebud goes to the Colstrip plant and a filthy little waste coal plant nearby. When the coal is burned, it will result in an additional 140 million tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Yet the DEIS refused to even consider the cost of climate change. By refusing to provide any estimate of the economic harm this project imposes on the public, the environment, and the economy, the DEIS misleads the public on the climate impacts caused by the expansion.
- The mine has already severely harmed water resources in the area, and the expansion will make matters worse. Existing mining operations have already dewatered parts of a stream, and the remaining water is polluted from mining activities. This expansion will make the existing water quality and quantity problems even worse.
- The expansion is expected to have significant impacts on water rights. The DEIS says that impacts to existing water rights could be “long-term and negligible to major.” Harmful impacts are expected to persist in aquifers outside of the mining area for decades, and groundwater and surface water rights are expected to return to “pre-mine conditions many decades after mine closure.” Finally, the DEIS concludes that if the mine expansion impacts someone’s water, the mine owner will replace their water. However, it doesn’t consider whether there is sufficient replacement water available or if the replacement water quality will be similar to what is lost.
- Westmoreland is in serious financial trouble and will likely have to declare bankruptcy in the near future. In the last year its stock dropped from 17.53 per share to 0.68 per share (a 97% drop). The mine has already harmed water resources, failed to meet its reclamation obligations, and can’t be trusted to be around in the near future. This is a sad, but familiar tune for Montana.
- Only 2.7% of the mine has been fully reclaimed despite the fact that it has been in operation for over 40 years. Mines have an obligation to do “contemporaneous reclamation” but the Rosebud mine has failed to comply. The government should not let the mine expand and create an even bigger environmental mess when it hasn’t bothered to clean up the mess it already made.
- We can do better. Montana and the Colstrip area have some of the best wind resources in the nation. There is a large transmission line that takes electricity from Colstrip to markets in Washington and Oregon. Those states are extremely concerned about climate change and are demanding clean, renewable electricity instead of coal. The DEIS fails to consider rapidly shifting energy markets and the demand for clean energy. Failure to consider these trends puts Montana at risk.
Say NO to more water and air pollution, water theft, and severe climate impacts from this financially precarious mining operation.