Daines Submits Comments to BLM for Review of Federal Coal Program

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines announced that the coal scoping meeting he hosted in Billings generated 68 comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for their review of the federal coal program.

On June 21, Daines held a public scoping meeting in Billings to ensure that the Department of Interior (DOI) hears the voices that will be most impacted by their review of the federal coal program. Montana has the nation’s largest estimated recoverable coal reserves. 

“It’s great that Montanans have been able to make their voices heard in decisions that affect their families’ ability to put food on the table,” Daines stated. “I urge the Obama administration to carefully review Montanans’ concerns about how President Obama’s anti-coal policies will cost jobs and have devastating impacts on our state’s economy and Montanans’ livelihoods.” 

Daines submitted the comments to the BLM, and they will be included in administrative record as BLM determines the scope of the programmatic review of the federal coal program. 

Daines comments from his coal scoping meeting is available to watch here.

DOI announced public meetings during May and June in Casper, Wyo.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Salt Lake City; and Seattle, excluding Montana.

On May 17, 2016, Daines introduced legislation to protect Montana coal jobs from the Obama administration’s recent moratorium on new federal coal leases and ensure that states and tribes have a significant voice in any changes to federal coal, oil, gas royalties or leasing policy. Earlier this month, Daines requested a legislative hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on his legislation.

Some of the comments Daines submitted include:

Senator Jim Keane (Butte, MT): “My own life and Butte’s life is tied to coal…Butte is so intricately interested in coal [because] if I asked you what community in the State of Montana uses the most coal energy in the state I’m sure you would say well maybe Billings or closest–no, it’s Butte. [Butte] uses half of one of the power plants all the time–24/7, 365 days a year–140 megawatts, 100 to the Silicon plant, 40 to the mine, all the time….

“In regards to Japan and South Korea building new power plants—Now Montana and Wyoming and the United States can benefit from the jobs in the fields of moving and shipping the coal to those plants at a competitive basis or we can let somebody else do it. We are always talking about jobs for this country–here [coal] is a great opportunity. Somebody is going to supply coal to those power plants that are going to continue to run. They are the cleanest ones being built right now, why don’t we get on that band wagon instead of just saying ‘Hey, let’s stop the coal, it’s bad.’ Coal is cheap energy, it’s helping Montana right now and it’s helping my community probably bigger than anywhere else in the State of Montana.”

Crow Tribal Vice Chairman Dana Wilson: “Coal benefits me and my tribe three-fold…I worked as a coal miner for about 15 years at Sarpy Creek Coal mine, Absaaloka mine…it put food on my table. I was able to put my wife through school and I was able to make decent living. As a tribal official, 2/3 of my budget comes from coal mining..averages out to $17 million a year…I am a little worried about this moratorium. It doesn’t affect the leasing of Crow coal, however, it could have some spillover effects that can affect me. … 

…Unemployment doesn’t pay the wage, those people are hungry, and they have got to survive somehow. These are some of the best jobs in the State of Montana. We need to fight for them. We need to fight for these families. These people get their paycheck and go to Billings or Colstrip and they help the economy, they spend their money there. It turns over and everybody benefits from that.”

Jason Small Boilermakers Local 11 (Busby, MT): “We have boilermakers, pipefitters, electricial workers and operating engineers who are all getting hit by this.” 

Mike and Sheila Davis, Generator Starter Shop, Inc., Billings, MT: “By losing coal jobs our little shop will be faced with laying off half of our staff. Meaning the young people may be forced to look for lower paying jobs or jobs out of state.”  

Brian Cherni (Spring Creek Mine): “There is much more to a coal miner than a hard hat and steel toed boots. Miners are a whole mix of people composed of farmers, ranchers, and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy their days off by taking their children fishing or camping in the mountains…When talking about environmental stewardship, I can assure you that those words mean the most to the men and women who work at the mine who care about the future of their work, future of their community, and the future of their environment.”

Mayor John Williams, Colstrip: “I have had the honor of serving the community of Colstrip for 45 years plus and now serve as its mayor. I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving the state of Montana as chairman of the Montana Coal Board and being involved in communities all over the state that are impacted by coal development. There is no other industry that has had the positive impact across the state as the coal industry has on the whole state of Montana.  We need to recognize that, we need to get the word out on the value of coal development and the power plants in Colstrip, what they do for the state.”

Hugh Broadus, Land-owner near Colstrip: “My family has a ranch in Rosebud County in Colstrip. I’ve been there a day or two and watched this thing from the beginning. I’m really upset with the federal government stepping in here. They are going to destroy our community and hurt our state and apparently our hands are tied…I watch these young people, I love young people. They got a home, got a family, are driving a nice car, and now they are looking to lose everything. That’s not right.” 

Ashley Dennehey, Colstrip United Co-Founder: “Coal is the past, present, and future; and to say there isn’t a future in coal mining, coal fired power generation, or in Colstrip itself is madness. There is just no way that any industry can keep up with the efficiency, the reliability, and the affordability that Colstrip offers.”