Montana Leases Massive New Coal Strip Mine

Otter Creek Mine may serve growing economies of Asia

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Late last week, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the State of Montana over the state’s decision to lease 572 million tons of coal for strip mining at Otter Creek without examining the environmental impacts of the decision. The decision was supported by Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer, who has been dubbed the "Coal Cowboy" by the national media.

The lease was awarded to St. Louis-based Arch Coal, the nation’s second largest coal producer. Including the coal it acquired from the state, Arch Coal has amassed leases for at least 1.3 billion tons of coal in the area, which will make the proposed Otter Creek mine one of the largest strip mines in North America.

Even while our nation’s leaders are claiming the need to achieve "energy independence," Arch Coal says that Otter Creek coal would be mined to serve the growing demand in Asian countries.

When burned, the coal mined at Otter Creek would will emit at least 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide and spur global warming. Even though Montana’s constitution guarantees a "clean and healthful environment," the state failed to seriously consider the lease’s contribution to global warming and its potentially devastating impacts. The mine’s opponents say that the state should have considered options to avoid or reduce the harmful impacts of the Otter Creek coal mine, including the option of not leasing the coal at all.

"One of the principles of laws requiring environmental review is that informed decision-making leads to better decisions. We hope that once Montana’s top elected officials fully appreciate the global ramifications of burning Otter Creek coal, they will decide to keep this coal in the ground," said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine, who is representing Montana Environmental Information Center and Sierra Club in the case.

: This week, Arch Coal proudly announced their new Montana office.>

An Earthjustice staff member from 1999 until 2015, Brian used outreach and partnership skills to cover many issues, including advocacy campaign efforts to promote a healthy ocean.

Established in 1993, Earthjustice's Northern Rockies Office, located in Bozeman, Mont., protects the region's irreplaceable natural resources by safeguarding sensitive wildlife species and their habitats and challenging harmful coal and industrial gas developments.