Letter: Don’t sell Montana’s water quality down the river – Montana Standard, Dec. 27, 2015

December 28, 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality is working to weaken Montana’s water quality standards (WQS) for Otter Creek to accommodate Otter Creek Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, so it can mine and ship Montana coal to Asian markets, despite that EPA recently approved Montana’s WQS for the Tongue River and its tributaries, including Otter Creek. EPA began a comprehensive review of the science supporting these WQS in 2011, and concluded that the WQS for the Tongue and its tributaries are supported by sound science.

As a farmer and rancher on the Tongue, I’ve worked hard to protect the quality of the river. It’s critical to keep salts out of our waters so we can produce high quality crops and cattle. Farmers and ranchers on the Tongue help feed Montanans, and contribute significantly to the state’s coffers. Agriculture is the top economic driver in Montana.

Weakening water quality laws to permit a mine so it can export coal overseas is a bad business decision for Montana. Add to this Arch’s announcement that it may soon file bankruptcy, that the New York Stock Exchange recently notified Arch it faces delisting because it doesn’t have sufficient capital to meet listing requirements, and that Arch couldn’t make a $90 million interest payment to creditors that was due December 15, and weakening Montana’s water quality laws makes even less business sense. MDEQ should protect Montana’s waters and agricultural economy instead of selling it down the river to a company that can’t even pay its bills.

— Art Hayes Jr., who ranches in Birney, is president of the Tongue River Water Users’ Association


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