Montana Environmental Information Center

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Otter Creek Coal Tracts

The Otter Creek Valley in Southeastern Montana is known for its agricultural productivity, abundant wildlife, and rich history and cultural significance to Native American Tribes and the local ranching community. It is a place of rural farms and ranches and striking beauty.

 Otter Creek Coal Tracts

Otter Creek, Montana. Site of the proposed Otter Creek Coal Tracts. Photo courtesy of Kestrel Aerial Services, Inc. (c)www.kestrelaerial.com

The Otter Creek Valley is also the site of the largest newly proposed coal strip mine in the United States, with approximately 1.3 billion tons of coal planned to be mined and burned. If approved, the Otter Creek coal tracts will have profound and unavoidable impacts on the agriculture, wildlife, water quality, and cultural significance of the Otter Creek Valley. When burned for energy, coal from Otter Creek would release over 2.5 billion tons of global warming pollution, further stressing our already overloaded atmosphere with additional carbon pollution.

Economic arguments for development of Otter Creek are overblown and misplaced. An economic critique prepared by Power Consulting identified that many of the economic arguments in favor of developing the Otter Creek mine have “focused exclusively on perceived benefits” and have not attempted to weight the benefits and costs associated with developing the Otter Creek Coal Tracts.

Arch Coal’s Application Process and the Otter Creek Coal Tracts

In July 2012, Arch Coal submitted an application to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Coal and Uranium Program. Arch Coal plans to develop the coal strip mine within the decade and most likely will market the coal to Asia and the Pacific Rim. Because of the major environmental impacts associated with developing Otter Creek, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is also required to conduct a MEPA analysis. DEQ maintains a website with regular updates on Arch Coal’s application and the accompanying MEPA process.

The full application for a permit as well as updates on Arch Coal’s application can be viewed here.

Additionally, MEIC is closely following the process: