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Contact Information

National Wildlife Federation Tribal Lands Conservation Program Billings, MT Office 406-252-2886 Bonogofsky@nwf.org
Montana Wildlife Federation P.O. Box 1175
Helena, MT 59624
Phone: 406-458-0227
Fax: 406-458-0373
Toll Free: 800-517-7256
http://www.montanawildlife.com Wyoming Wildlife Federation P.O. Box 106 Cheyenne, WY 82003 Phone: 800-786-5434 Fax: 307-637-6629 info@wyomingwildlife.org www.wyomingwildlife.org/

Powder River Basin News

Group appeals coal lease based on reclamation concerns

A local landowner and agriculture group have filed an appeal against a federal plan to lease 429 million tons of coal to the Antelope mine along the borders of Converse and Campbell counties. State regulators have determined that the mine "continues to fall further behind on meeting contemporaneous reclamation criteria" according to the Powder River Basin Resource Council, which filed the appeal Monday.Click here for the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune.

Montana ranchers need federal help on coal ash regulation

After the tragic accident earlier this month in a West Virginia mine that took the lives of 29 miners, we are soberly reminded of the risks of coal mining. However many people may not be aware of the ongoing risks coal has been producing in eastern Montana for years.

Having come to the Colstrip area over 60 years ago, I have some on-the-ground acquaintance with coal mining and power plants. A coal fly ash pond at the power plant has been leaking for years. That problem has been compounded by leakage from a large freshwater holding pond along with added aquifer water that has been released from several strip mines.

Read the full article from The Missoulian here.

Arch Coal bids $86 million for Montana's Otter Creek coal

Arch Coal Inc. has bid $86 million plus future royalties for the right to mine a half-billion tons of state-owned coal in southeastern Montana near the Wyoming border.

Developing a mine could take years and would also require construction of the proposed Tongue River Railroad -- a project fiercely fought by environmentalists and area landowners.

Read the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune here .

Wyo ranchers prevail in state CBM water case

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council has sided with a ranching couple who contested a discharge permit for coal-bed methane water that was issued by the state. A landowner group says the ruling could have important implications for Wyoming's large coal-bed methane industry, though state officials expressed doubt that Thursday's vote would have a wide-ranging effect. Click here for the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune

Wyoming Supreme Court upholds coal plant permit

The Wyoming Supreme Court has upheld a state air quality permit for a power plant being built at a coal mine north of Gillette. Construction of the coal-fired Dry Fork Station plant is about 75 percent complete. The Supreme Court ruling Friday lifts one of the few remaining bureaucratic obstacles before the Basin Electric plant can become fully operational next year. "It will be one of the most environmentally sound plants in the country" Daryl Hill, a spokesman for the Bismarck, N.D.-based utility, said Monday. The plant's $1.3 billion cost includes $334 million in pollution-control equipment, Hill said. Even so, environmental groups have said the plant isn't going to be fitted with the best available pollution control technology. Click here for the full story from the Grand Forks Herald.

Wyoming reports another CBM water spill at Williams site

A recent Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality citation is just part of a series of problems Williams Production Co. has had with handling water produced by coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin, state and federal documents show.

Williams pipes have broken and spilled coal-bed methane water at least 16 times in the basin since August. The combined spills released close to 1 million gallons, according to U.S. Bureau of Land Management documents and the Department of Environmental Quality's inspection and compliance supervisor, Brian Lovett.

Six spills within the last 10 days -- including a 21,000-gallon spill just Tuesday -- have totaled nearly 166,000 gallons, Lovett said.

Read the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune here .

Wyoming seeks action in illegal CBM water spill

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality recently issued a notice of violation to a coal-bed methane producer for allegedly spilling 10,000 barrels of coal-bed methane water in western Campbell County.

Williams Production RMT Co., the largest coal-bed methane producer in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, told DEQ that the spill had not reached any existing waterways, according to state documents.

However, upon inspection by DEQ staff on January 14, it was observed that the spilled coal-bed methane water indeed had entered Barber Creek, making the spill a violation by allowing "the discharge of any pollution or wastes into the waters of the state," according to the notice of violation.

Read the full article from the Casper Star-Tribune here .

Montana Land Board votes to lower coal bid to 15 cents a ton

From high school students to labor organizers to one man who essentially told Gov. Brian Schweitzer to shut up, the hot-button issue of Otter Creek coal drew a packed and passionate crowd to the Capitol Tuesday morning.

“For what price are you willing to sell a piece of your children’s future?” Missoula Big Sky High School student Allison Lawrence asked the Land Board, before it voted to lower the bidding price on the state’s 570 million tons of coal in the Otter Creek Valley. “We are the ones who must live with the emissions (with) which you leave our great state.”

Read the full article from the Helena Independent Record here .

No bid on Montana's Otter Creek coal

The only "bid" submitted Monday to lease 570 million tons of state-owned coal in southeastern Montana's Otter Creek Valley turned out to be no bid — but coal-mining giant Arch Coal Inc. said it might be interested if the state lowers its asking price.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who voted in December along with the four other members of the Land Board to set the minimum bonus bid at 25 cents a ton, said Monday he's not discouraged by Arch Coal's non-bid.

Read the full story from the Montana Standard here.

Wyoming BLM: No public access planned at meetings

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it doesn't intend to provide public access to meetings that help establish land use plans, despite pressure from environmentalists and others to open up the meetings. Click here for the full story from Local News 8.

Feds recommend approval of 2 Rockies gas lines

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Federal regulators are recommending approval of two natural gas pipelines that could sharply increase fuel shipments from the Rockies to population centers in the Midwest and on the West Coast. Click here for the full story from Forbes magazine

Coal company says Montana's minimum bid for state leases too high

The head of the company that owns more than half the coal in southeastern Montana's Otter Creek Valley said this week he'll be surprised if anyone bids on state-owned coal there, because the Land Board probably set the minimum price too high.

Great Northern owns 730 million tons of coal in the Otter Creek Valley, about 150 miles east of Billings, and its coal is interspersed with 572 million tons of coal owned by the state.

On Dec. 21, the state Land Board decided to put the state coal up for bid to potential developers and set the minimum bonus bid at 25 cents a ton, or $143 million.  Read the full story from The Missoulian.

CBM operator warns of 'threats'

Coal-bed methane gas producers in Wyoming are grappling with a changed political landscape in Washington, D.C. In a newspaper advertisement, Yates Petroleum referred to “substantial threats to the Oil and Gas industry in the Powder River Basin,” and said the industry has been prevented from drilling and building pipelines, roads, water facilities and compressor stations. Yates officials declined to comment further this week. But Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said much of the current slowdown in the coal-bed methane industry can be blamed on economics. Click here for the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune

Montana board votes 4-1 to lease coal tracts

The state Land Board Monday voted 4-1 to lease 572 million tons of state-owned coal in southeastern Montana's Otter Creek Valley - but set a relatively high minimum price to buy the rights to develop the tracts.

The decision, which came after months and years of study, appraisals and political lobbying by all sides of the contentious issue, could be the first step toward developing a massive coal mine in the rural valley about 150 miles east of Billings. Read the full story from The Missoulian.

Montana GOP legislators press state to lease coal tracts

Fourteen state legislators from Eastern Montana, all Republicans, sent a letter Tuesday to the state Land Board, urging it to vote next week to lease 570 million tons of state-owned coal in the Otter Creek Valley, for possible development.

The Land Board, composed of Montana’s five elected statewide office holders, is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to put the state’s 572 million tons of coal up for bid to potential developers. Read the full story from the Billings Gazette.

Pressure's on to modify CBM water regs

GILLETTE -- Coal-bed methane gas producers and state regulators are in a scramble to satisfy concerns listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the discharge of groundwater on the surface in the Powder River Basin.The EPA recently put a hold on a handful of water discharge permit applications with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. In a series of recent letters, the EPA has noted that Wyoming regulators appear to be using a permit scheme that does not meet Wyoming's own water quality standard intended to protect agricultural uses.  Click here for the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune

New Group Tackles CBM Issues

Landowners and coal-bed methane operators will meet in Gillette on Wednesday in yet another new "working group" formed to address policy concerns regarding coal-bed methane water.It's the most recent effort in a 10-year series of working groups, advisory boards and task forces attempting to tackle a long list of environmental and property right concerns regarding the practice of dumping coal-bed methane discharge water on the surface."Yet here we are still. ... It's the same ride with the same people," said Campbell County rancher Eric Barlow. Click here for the rest of the story from the Casper Star-Tribune.

Montana land board postpones coal lease decision

The state Land Board on Monday delayed until next month its decision whether to lease millions of tons of state-owned coal for possible development in southeastern Montana, saying more time is needed for the public to examine the proposed bid-letting. “I think it is appropriate for us to have a little more time to look at this,” said Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, who made the motion to delay action on leasing the Otter Creek coal tracts until the board’s Dec. 21 meeting. The five-member board, chaired by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and composed of the top state officeholders, voted unanimously for the delay. Read the full story from the Helena Independent Record.

Company's coal lease in SE Montana puts pressure on state

Arch Coal Inc. has signed a lease agreement to mine the vast Otter Creek coal field in southeastern Montana — ramping up pressure on Gov. Brian Schweitzer and other state officials to lease adjacent coal tracts controlled by the state. Combined with Montana's tracts, the newly leased reserves in the Powder River Basin contain 1.3 billion tons of coal. That's more than the entire United States burns annually. Yet it will be difficult for Arch — the nation's second largest coal company — to move forward without enlisting the state's cooperation. Read the full story from the Great Falls Tribune.

Conservationists work to find balance between industry and elk in Fortification Creek area

The main target of activity for coal-bed methane drillers in northeast Wyoming is in the southern portion of the Fortification Creek area -- part of important year-round range for a rare prairie elk herd. Conservationists claim the drilling is the result of federal land managers reneging on a commitment to hold off on permitting in the area until a resource management plan is amended. Click here for the full story from the Casper Star-Tribune.