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Otter Creek Coal Mine Plans Suspended

Coal train
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Coal Mine Plans Suspended For Potential Ecological Damage

Arch Coal company is suspending plans to develop a major coal mine in southeast Montana.

The company announced today that a weakening coal market and an uncertain permitting process prompted it to shelve the Otter Creek mine proposal. Shelby DeMars of the coal advocacy group, Count on Coal Montana, says this is a disappointing turn of events:

"We’re finally seeing the results of the war on coal that’s being waged by environmental groups and politicians. Otter Creek would have created 4,400 new jobs for Montanans. It would have been a huge boon to our state economy. We’ve completely lost that as a direct result of the red tape that the permitting process and coal development in general has had to undergo.”

Coal opponents counter that low coal prices are making mines untenable, and expressed relief at Arch Coal’s decision.

They say the coal extracted from the proposed mine would have pumped billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and threatened the local water supply. Gov. Steve Bullock's administration refutes claims it dragged its heels on the company’s application process, saying Arch failed to submit an application proving it would protect local water supplies.

Bullock is defending his administration's handling of the coal mine.

Arch said Thursday the Otter Creek mine faced hurdles, including an uncertain outlook for obtaining a permit. The St. Louis-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in January.

Bullock said in a statement that the state had waited for more than a year for Arch to re-submit its mining application. Regulators in March 2015 had raised concerns over Otter Creek's potential to harm water supplies.

Republican Greg Gianforte, who hopes to challenge Bullock this fall, accused the Democratic governor of refusing to issue a permit to Arch.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers says it was up to Arch to take the next step in the process.

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