Daines Pushes Biden Admin to Commit to Keeping Montana Mines Open

Bull Mountains, Rosebud, Spring Creek Mines Set to Close Because Admin Dragging Feet on Environmental Reviews

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing pushed President Biden’s Deputy Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) on the delayed environmental reviews for three Montana coal mines

Watch Daines’ full remarks and questioning HERE.

“Deputy Director Owens, the Office of Surface Mining is required by a court order to complete environmental reviews for three major Montana coal mines. For all three mines, OSM set deadlines for the completion of the environmental reviews and in each case OSM has pushed those completion dates further and further and further down the road…And for all three mines, if OSM does not complete their environmental reviews in a timely fashion, the mines will run out of permitted coal. Let me say that again… Behind me is a frightening chart. It shows the dates that each coal mine runs out of permitted coal and the current date that OSM has told us they will finish their environmental reviews. For every one of these mines, OSM now says they will finish after the mine runs out of coal. OSM must take this seriously and focus on finishing each review in a timely manner,”Daines said.

Daines Questioning Deputy Director Owens on the Bull Mountains Mine

Watch this exchange HERE.

Senator Daines: Deputy Director Owens, I want to start with the Bull Mountains coal mine near Roundup, Montana. In December of 2022 Judge Malloy required OSM to complete a new EIS, even though OSM had already completed three environmental assessments. Now originally OSM said they would complete the EIS in July of 2024. Now you’re saying June of 2025. It’s my understanding that mine will run out of all permitted coal by September of 2024 and will be forced to close unless OSM finishes the required permit. That means jobs, livelihoods.

Look, places where these mines exist are not the same places where the show Yellowstone takes place. These folks oftentimes have to have several jobs to make ends meet, but these are the best paying jobs in these areas. These are places here where folks are struggling right now in many, many ways to make ends meet. But their livelihoods are going to be lost because OSM is dragging its feet.

So, here’s my question, Deputy Director. Will you commit to me and the people of Montana that OSM will finish your required environmental review before September of 2024? That’s when the mine runs out of coal.

Deputy Director Owens: Thank you, Senator Daines. What I can and will commit to is that OSMRE will work as expeditiously as possible to meet that deadline, which we have been doing. But as we are conducting these environmental reviews, as I mentioned, court decisions come out that change our focus oftentimes and require us to engage in – to pivot and undertake additional reviews and analyses. And that’s what we’ve had to do in all of these cases, in each of these cases, Spring Creek, Rosebud, and Bull Mountains. And we do – we put – we change and do those reviews and analyses that are required by these court decisions because, again, none of us –

Senator Daines: Yeah, but that’s not a commitment. When a guy says, “You’re going to try your best,” that’s different than saying, “We’re going to get this done.” Because you recognize we’re going to close the mine down if we don’t get this done. 

Deputy Director Owens: Well, a little bit more than try our best. Work as expeditiously as we can with the others in the department that we are working with to ensure that we get it right so that we don’t have to go back and do it again.

Senator Daines:  So, you know, when we first heard from OSM, they said, “Okay, it’s going to be July of 2024,” which, that worked, because the mind runs out in September of 2024. And then we come back and say, “Wait a minute, now it’s going to be June of 2025.” This isn’t all going to work, but this isn’t, this is just argument number one. We’re going to get to two more mines here because I tell you, I think what’s happening here is there’s folks who want to slow roll this, because they know if time’s on their side, they can slow roll this and shut all three of these mines down.

On February 22nd, 2023 Daines sent a letter to the DOI urging Secretary Haaland to appeal the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 350 Montana .v Haaland ruling. 

On September 5th, 2023 Daines sent a letter to the DOI expressing his strong support for the continued operations of the Bull Mountains Mine.