HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Coal opponents chastised the Montana Land Board Friday for plans to lease more coal to Signal Peak Energy for the operation of the Bull Mountain Mine south of Roundup.
The board agreed Friday to start taking public comment on the $3.5 million bid received from Signal Peak Energy to lease more state coal at the mine site. The coal tracts are in the path of the Bull Mountain Mine and are key to future mining.
The land board is chaired by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and includes Attorney General Steve Bullock and other statewide elected officials. Board action on the matter is scheduled for September.
Several coal opponents argued at the board meeting that the elected officials should do more to stop coal development that they say damages the environment.
The opponents said their numbers were harmed by a late rescheduling of the meeting. Earlier this week the agency updated its website to note the meeting would be held Friday instead of later in the month. The Department of Natural Resources said the switch was necessary to make sure a voting majority of board members was available due to scheduling conflicts.
"You just can't do anything you want. We will hold you accountable," said Brian Nickerson, with the Blue Skies Campaign of Missoula. "If these proposed coal leases go through, you will destroy the Earth."
The DNRC said the $3.5 million upfront bid is about 30 cents per ton of recoverable reserves. The lease also would require a royalty payment of 10 percent of the gross value of coal mined.
The agency estimates the state could get $15 million over the life of the project on its land after the bid process is complete.
Mine owner Signal Peak Energy previously leased federal coal on adjacent federal Bureau of Land Management parcels for its 300-employee Bull Mountain Mine.
The land board on Friday also approved new rules for leasing land to companies running pipelines. The leases will now expire after 30 years and be subject to renewal. There was no comment on the proposal.