Coal-Impacted Counties Seek Increased Infrastructure Funding
Coal-impacted counties say they are desperate for funds to fix roads, water systems, and to pay for schools, but the grant source for those projects is short of money.
They’re asking lawmakers to temporarily bump up funding for the coal board.
House Bill 228 would temporarily increase the amount of coal severance tax revenue that flows into the fund administered by the coal board. Those funds are later handed out in grants to coal-impacted communities. The bill temporarily restores an earlier reduction.
Bud Clinch spoke in favor of the bill. He's the executive director of the Montana Coal Council, a trade group
"What we’re here asking you for today to recognize the increasing impacts of coal mining. Mainly as the result of the expansion of Bull Mountain mine and some of the other increased impacts associated from the other mines and return the allocation to the coal board to a more appropriate level," said Clinch.
The Bull Mountain Mine is now known as Signal Peak.
Money from the coal severance tax is distributed to many diverse projects across the state, in addition to grants administered by the coal board, it funds economic development and the arts.
Bob Gilbert is a former legislator and now represents some of the coal impacted counties that face crumbling water pipes and more and heavier traffic on their roads.
"Right now we have those needs and we’ve diverted money session after session someone else comes in, and if you’ll forgive me, I always refer to them as the little pigs at the trough. And they kept pulling money out of the money that should go to the impacted counties."
Other supporters of the bill include local government officials and representatives from Musselshell County and the communities of Roundup, Colstrip, Forsyth and Billings. No one spoke against it.