Comment on the the Otter Creek coal mine proposal

This story was published in A Cheyenne Voice.

The state of Montana is asking the public to weigh in on the proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine east of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. The comment period is open through Feb. 4, and it includes three public meetings in Broadus, Ashland and Lame Deer on Jan. 16 and 17.

Kristi Ponozzo, of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, says public input will inform a draft environmental impact statement for the Otter Creek mine, which would be developed by Otter Creek Coal, LLC, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, Inc., the second largest U.S. coal producer.

“With the scoping period,” Ponozzo says, “we’re just throwing a net out there and saying, ‘What do people think?’”

With coal consumption in the U.S. plummeting, partly due to low natural gas prices, Arch Coal and other coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin are looking to export coal to booming markets in Asia. Mining Otter Creek coal also hinges on construction of the Tongue River Railroad. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board is accepting comments on the proposed railroad through Friday, Jan. 11.

Otter Creek Coal would mine a 1.5 billion-ton coal deposit underlying about 18,000 acres the company owns or controls in the Otter Creek Valley, about five miles southwest of Ashland. The operation would include access roads, facilities, equipment staging, operational areas and a railroad loop.

Representatives of Otter Creek Coal, the Montana DEQ and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will answer questions and take comments at next week’s meetings. Those who attend can voice their opinions orally or in writing.

The following are the times and locations for the three meetings:
– Broadus: Jan. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Center
– Ashland: Jan. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the St. Labre School
– Lame Deer: Jan. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tribal Office

Comments on the plan can also be submitted via mail or email through Feb. 4.

Mail comments to:
Kristi Ponozzo
DEQ Director’s Office
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620

Email comments to deqcoalcomments@mt.gov.

kindra.mcquillan@umontana.edu