Montanans take coal export fight to Spokane hearing – Sept. 26, 2013

September 26, 2013

Categories: Coal

Coal exports to Asia through the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview, Washington, – if they develop as proposed – will lead to dramatic increases in coal train traffic across more than 500 miles of Montana. But the lead agency in charge of the proposals, the Army Corps of Engineers, has so far refused to hold hearings in Montana to learn about how Montana is impacted by that traffic.

 

This is why a group of Montanans traveled in a caravan to Spokane, Washington. Nearly 30 Montanans made the trip and several of them were able to speak up about those impacts at a hearing in Spokane on Wednesday.

 

Montana residents from as far east as Miles City made this trip to ensure that Corps of Engineers officials hear in person about how the proposed coal port at Longview directly affects Montanans by adding significant volumes of rail traffic and potentially increasing local taxes to pay for overpasses or underpasses or other necessary safety measures.

 

State Senator Sue Malek (D-Missoula) told Corps of Engineers officials, “I want Montana considered. I want you to pay attention to the needs of Montana.”

 

Janet McMillan of Greenough reminded the Corps of Engineers, “These coal trains do not magically appear at the Washington border. Impacts to Montana need to be considered.”

 

The additional strip mining sparked by the export plan will affect Montana ranchland and aquifers. The Tongue River Railroad – a spur line planned for the proposed strip mine at Otter Creek – will condemn private property and cut ranch operations in half. Mark Fix, who ranches on the Tongue River, said “I made this trip because Montanans deserve a voice and, if the agency won’t come to Montana, then I’ll go to the agency.”

 

Referring to St. Louis-based Arch Coal, Fix told the hearing, “Arch has the Otter Creek leases. Arch co-owns the Tongue River Railroad. And Arch wants to open this port. The projects cannot be looked at in a vacuum.”

 

Approximately 450 people turned out at the Spokane Convention Center to give statements or show support or opposition for the proposed coal port at Longview. Montanans’ testimony received vigorous applause from the audience of people in Washington opposing coal exports.

 

Testifiers also expressed concern about increased diesel pollution and coal dust in communities, disruption of commerce, traffic, and emergency vehicles, and reduced property values in areas near rail lines.

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