Press release: Coal impacts featured at Northern Plains meeting, Nov. 10, 2012

November 12, 2012

Categories: Agriculture, Coal, Events, Member news, News, Northern Plains Resource Council

By Northern Plains Resource Council

Wyoming rancher L.J. Turner, who lives near a Gillette coal mine, told members of the Northern Plains Resource Council that coal mining consumes large volumes of water. He described the creek on his ranch that once supported fish, having gone dry since mining started, and he told of a study that showed widespread drawdown of water wells in coal mining areas throughout the Powder River Basin.

“There’s such a small amount of water here, I don’t see what the hurry is to get rid of it,” he told Northern Plains members.

Turner was a panelist at the 41st annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council, held November 9-10 in Billings. He was joined by numerous other speakers who discussed energy, natural resource, and agriculture issues during the two-day meeting.

Northern Plains is a Billings-based conservation and family agriculture group that organizes to protect Montana’s water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life.

The keynote speaker was Janet Keating, executive director of a West Virginia citizen group. Keating told the crowd of how Appalachian coal mining – including the practice of mountaintop removal – has affected public health and property rights, has increased poverty, and even regularly destroys family cemeteries. She asked, “If coal mining has been so good for Appalachia, then why are we so poor?”

Other programs examined practical uses of solar energy and the impacts of oil and gas drilling. Members also viewed a film about using the buying power of school cafeteria programs to provide healthier and better-tasting lunches while supporting local agriculture.

Northern Plains members also discussed and adopted resolutions calling for:

  • Repeal of the “tax holiday” for new oil and gas wells, increased distribution of oil and gas tax revenues to affected counties and towns, and creating a state fund to help counties and towns deal with infrastructure costs created by oil and gas development;
  • Rejection of any attempts to privatize water resources, and requiring that water affected by the fracking process be treated and returned to the state’s waters;
  • Public disclosure of energy use in government buildings;
  • Rejecting the notion that corporations are people; and
  • Protecting landowners’ right of surface-owner consent in areas where federally owned coal is being swapped to other owners.

Three Northern Plains members – Miles City rancher Mark Fix, Birney rancher Jeanie Alderson, and Bozeman resident Beth Kaeding – were presented with the Sargent Stewardship Award by the Montana-based Cinnabar Foundation, in honor of their efforts to protect the rights of landowners threatened by energy development.

Annual Northern Plains awards were also presented. Nellie Israel of Joliet was awarded the Bob Tully Spirit Award and Julia Page of Gardiner received the Mary Donohoe “Tell It Like It Is” award.

Northern Plains members at the meeting also held fundraising auctions, meals, music, and a member-staff talent show.

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