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Plains Speaking

Time to end speculation by Tongue River Railroad

By: Mark Fix and Clint McRae

On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, the Tongue River Railroad Company asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to indefinitely freeze its permit application for the proposed Tongue River Railroad. If permitted, the railroad would condemn up to 90 miles of working family farm and ranchland in southeastern Montana to build a new rail line to ship coal from the proposed Otter Creek coal mine to proposed Pacific Northwest coal export facilities and then on to Asia.

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The Northern Plains Resource Council works to protect Montana's working landscapes, educate on environmental issues and sustainable agriculture, defend our water quality, avert the effects of climate change... Read more >

The Northern Plains Resource Council works to protect Montana's working landscapes, educate on environmental issues and sustainable agriculture, defend our water quality, avert the effects of climate change, and ensure that citizens are able to play a meaningful role in the public policies that affect their lives.

The time is now to transition away from fossil fuels, and to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy like abundant Montana wind and Montana solar resources.

Protecting family-based farming and ranching means advancing sustainable agriculture, landowner rights, water quality and conservation, and access to local foods. It means ending monopolization in the meatpacking industry and educating consumers about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and how GMO foods chip away at the rights of farmers and take away consumer choice.

Montana farmers and ranchers have too often found themselves in the path of fossil fuel projects. Much of the coal that is mined in Montana, including a proposed mine at Otter Creek, is destined for the coal export market. Coal trains, like the proposed Tongue River Railroad, then haul the coal across the state, causing dust, fires, and traffic delays along the route. Past and present mines often fail to satisfy mine reclamation requirements, leaving a lasting legacy of contaminated soil and water that impedes agricultural and recreational use. Montana climate change, caused by ever increasing environmental issues, is accelerating, causing increasingly erratic weather.

Montana also has significant oil and gas reserves that can be extracted by conventional drilling, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking in Montana extracts millions of gallons of water from underground, contaminates wells and aquifers, and creates toxic waste. Protecting Montana water rights from destructive oil and gas development depends on baseline water testing to document the quality and quantity of water present prior to any development activity.

In addition to addressing environmental issues that impact Montana agriculture and climate change, Northern Plains also stands up for water rights and property rights near the Stillwater mine. Our members negotiated the Good Neighbor Agreement with the Stillwater Mining Co. to ensure the impacts of mining operations are minimized, to conserve water to the extent possible, and to carefully monitor impacts on water quality and quantity. The agreement is upheld by the Stillwater Mining Co and active members of Northern Plains who provide citizen oversight.

NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154
info@northernplains.org