By Anne Hedges
Aerial view of subsidence cracks as a result of Signal Peak mining. Photo from WELC.
MEIC joined a dozen other conservation organizations in filing a complaint with state and federal agencies against Signal Peak Energy, operator of the Bull Mountains Coal Mine north of Billings. The complaint shows evidence of the mine causing subsidence cracks that have damaged lands in and adjacent to Signal Peak’s mine.
Signal Peak is failing to comply with permit requirements to reclaim lands affected by this subsidence. This subsidence is making it extremely difficult and dangerous for wildlife, wildland firefighters, landowners, and ranchers. Despite knowing about the severe subsidence problems, Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has failed to protect the public and environment by issuing notices of violation or cessation orders.
We requested the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) perform a federal inspection of this mine and issue a cessation order to Signal Peak requiring it halt operations at the Bull Mountains Mine until it complies with the law.
While a federal court invalidated Signal Peak’s federal mining plan in February 2023, the company is still obligated to repair the damage caused by its coal mine operations. This year, The New York Times reported on the corruption and criminal history surrounding Signal Peak Energy. Along with impacts to local ranchers, the story reveals embezzlement, a fake kidnapping, bribery, cocaine trafficking, firearms violations, past links to Vladimir Putin, and worker safety and environmental violations by the mine and its owners.
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) and Earthjustice filed the complaint on behalf of MEIC, Citizens for Clean Energy, 350 Montana, Families for a Livable Climate, Moms Clean Air Force, Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Health Professionals for a Livable Climate, Northern Plains Resource Council, Park County Environmental Council, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.
This article was published in the December 2023 issue of Down To Earth.