Montanans are concerned about the proposed Otter Creek coal mine. Though I now live in Billings, I grew up in Anaconda, and like many Montanans, I know what it’s like when the government fails to fully plan for the lasting impacts of mining, fails to fully protect our communities, and fails to preserve the natural beauty of Montana — one of our most precious resources. Otter Creek is a sensitive area because the coal seam is a vital aquifer for the area.
Coal strip mines sever and destroy such aquifers, resulting in impacts miles away from these mines; they dry up wells and springs, many of which are important sources of water for livestock and are critical to maintaining a diversity of natural plants and wildlife. Given that other mining operations have failed to restore the coal-seam aquifers disturbed by mining, and the vast majority of Montana mines have never been able to achieve full reclamation, the thought of a new, enormous mine is deeply troubling.
How will the DEQ protect and preserve the natural beauty and agricultural enterprises which the strip mine and aquifer disturbance threaten? Montanans need to speak up about the Otter Creek coal mine permit — currently incomplete — and hold our government accountable for its duty to protect our natural lands, our state’s farming and ranching heritage, and our local communities — which would be impacted by pollution, water drawdowns, reduced tourism and recreation, and increased train traffic.
Montanans shouldn’t have to pay for the mess mines leave behind.