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Montana Governor, Industry Reps Respond to Coal Moratorium

No surprise here: reps from Montana, one of the leading coal producers in the U.S., has spoken out against the Obama Administration’s coal lease moratorium.

Yesterday, we reported Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were suspending new coal lease approval in order to study coal’s “social” costs as well as economic ones. The review, the first comprehensive one in 30 years, will take three years to complete.

Now, various representatives of the industry, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Montana’s governor, have spoken out, condemning the administration.

“President Obama is wrong,” said Governor Steve Bullock in an official statement, “and once again Montana’s working families are left bearing the brunt of his unilateral action. Of course American taxpayers should get their fair value from coal leases and of course there should be transparency in the process. But you don’t shut down a program just to tinker with it — you fix as you go. As this process moves forward, I am going to demand Montana has a seat at the table.”

Among the other representative and entities who issued statements include the Montana Coal Council, Helena’s International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 11, and the Montana Policy Institute. From a press release by The Montana Group, a Helena-based political consulting firm:

“This announcement comes as no surprise from an administration that seems hell-bent on forcing the coal industry to come to a screeching halt,” said Bud Clinch, Executive Director of the Montana Coal Council. “This is devastating news for Montana.  About half the coal we mine is federal coal.  The president is trying to stop all of that coal from being mined.  It could also make it unfeasible to mine some tribal, private, or state-owned coal on parcels adjacent to federal parcels.  The president and environmental groups have put in jeopardy thousands of good-paying Montana jobs and one of our most important economic sectors.”

“Federal coal royalties total between $40 and $50 million in biennial revenue to our state,” said Glenn Oppel, Government Relations Director for the Montana Chamber of Commerce.  “Losing that would leave a gaping hole in our state budget and represents a huge tax shift to Montana homeowners and small businesses.  The economic impact of coal in our state cannot be understated, a moratorium on federal coal mining would be a catastrophe.”

“As I stated last week when I attended Obama’s state of the union where he hinted at further action against federal coal leasing: Washington, D.C.’s out of touch regulations are hurting Montana families, and they need to be stopped,” said Jason Small, President of International Boilermakers Local 11 in East Helena.

“Once again, rather than listen to local communities, President Obama is listening to his extremist environmental allies. Obama’s decision is going to cost Montanans millions in lost revenue,” said Brent Mead of the Montana Policy Institute. “This decision means fewer Montana jobs, less money for Montana schools, and ultimately higher taxes on Montana families.”

The current moratorium would mean no new coal mining would be allowed on federal lands across the board (barring special exceptions), although current production would not be impacted. Along with Wyoming, Montana holds the largest coal-producing region in the United States—the Powder River Basin, which supplies an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s coal.

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