By Anne Hedges

Commenting on Ambre’s Decker coal mine expansion is shooting in the dark … and that’s the way Ambre likes it.
Ambre Energy's Coal Mine Expansion Confidential (Photo: Coal mine in Montana)

Ambre Energy’s Coal Mine Expansion Confidential (Photo: Coal mine in Montana)

When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) asked for “feedback” on a proposal to lease 500 acres of coal-bearing land to the Decker West mine, the first question that came to mind was –what is the proposal exactly? The Decker Coal Company is owned by Australian coal giant Ambre Energy, a company leading the industry blitz to build West Coast coal export terminals so coal companies can make a killing selling undervalued U.S. coal to Asian markets. But if you want to find out more about Ambre’s proposal…fat chance!

BLM sent out a notice requesting public “feedback relevant to the issues that may influence the scope of the environmental analysis, including alternatives.” I also got a letter from BLM saying the most useful public comments are those that are “specific.”

So I wondered — How much coal are we talking about exactly? What is the company actually proposing to do? Where will the mine be expanded? I looked at the companies website. No luck. I looked at BLM’s website. No luck. I called BLM.

Why is Ambre Energy’s Coal Mine Expansion Confidential?

A very pleasant BLM staffer told me the site contains a total of 40 million tons, but I had to call a different office for a copy of the application. So I did. Another very pleasant person told me I can’t have the application. Why is Ambre Energy’s Coal Mine Expansion Confidential? Because Ambre said so. Ambre simply marked pages of their application confidential. Ambre didn’t say why the information was confidential and apparently BLM didn’t ask.

In order to read the application that BLM wants you to comment on, you need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. BLM will then ask Ambre to justify its confidentiality claims. When Ambre responds, BLM will determine if it meets the legal standard for confidentiality. If it doesn’t, BLM will release the application to me. If BLM says it is confidential, then who knows if I’ll get anything at all or just those sections that are not claimed as confidential. Either way, it will take a while.

Yesterday I filed a FOIA request for the application. Even if BLM decides I am entitled to the application, which I need to make “specific” comments on regarding “relevant issues … including alternatives,” I won’t get that information until long after the comment period closes.

How can anyone be expected to meaningfully comment on alternatives to the proposal when they can’t even see what is being proposed? Shooting in the dark indeed!

The Decker coal strip mine is located adjacent to the Tongue River Reservoir in Southeastern Montana. Last year a local agricultural water users group charged that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a water discharge permit to the mine that continues to allow direct discharges from the mine into the Tongue River Reservoir that exceed the state’s long established water quality standards.


4 Replies to “Ambre Energy’s Coal Mine Expansion Confidential”

  1. Vincent Feliciano Jr. says:

    At this point it seems all we can do is lesson our impacts and stay aware of the major changes taking place. We have to stop these exports, exports that add to the destruction of our world (Earth)! We are seeing things unfolding that are allready set into play and cannot be stopped! We will survive (Humanity and all life on Earth) if we change our ways and relationships, but many will have to die. Because of the disrespect and lack of aucknowledgement humanity has shown all other life-forms and their Mother Earth, we will all pay the price of the Forefathers who blazed the trails that created the by-products that contributed to “Our” current sittuation on Earth! But than it becomes the resbonsability of our children to right the wrongs of our Forefathers, if Hama iTunes doesn’t do it, who will?

    They say, “if you find the source of an ailment, there you will also find its anecdote”!

    So, “If you find the source (humankind) of the ailments of Earth, there you will also find the Earths anecdote”!

    So let us find our anecdote, Let Us find ourselves!

  2. Randy McNeely says:

    Let’s be perfectly clear; we are at war.

    Foreign and domestic companies are raping our lands, polluting our water and air, and perpetrating the largest climate change in human history that will displace hundreds of millions of people from their homes. This will make both previous world wars of the last century seem trivial in their human impacts. And don’t even get me started on how many species of other creatures are being simultaneously wiped out for ever in the biggest genocide ever perpetrated by one species against all others. And they say humans have culture?!

    These companies are operating in secret just as Hitler did, rearming and launching covert action to dominate and destroy all in their path. They are also making a mockery of our legal system and a hundred years of progressive and life-affirming legislation that millions fought and died to secure.

    It’s is time to rise and demand justice, for our air, water, climate, and children. Will we surrender again without a fight?