Montana officials seeking more on Otter Creek

THE Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is reportedly seeking more details on Arch Coal’s proposed Otter Creek mine after it said it identified deficiencies in the producer’s application.

Donna Schmidt

According to Associated Press on Tuesday, the environmental regulators described the deficiencies in the mine permit application as routine.

The DEQ released a 41-page communication indicating the issues it took with Otter Creek and the company’s application, which includes operations and reclamation as well as plans for studies of plants and wildlife.

Agency Industrial and Energy Minerals Bureau chief Ed Coleman told the news service there was no response deadline.

Arch officials did not respond to an ILN request for more information.

Should it come to fruition, Otter Creek near Ashland, Rosebud County, will have a 20 million ton per annum output goal.

The surface operation will pull coal from state-owned and private coal leases.

The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research released a report on the complex’s potential impact on the state last June. It stands behind the project, calling it a significant shot in the arm for Montana’s economy based on a key factor – rising Asian demand.

“This study finds that with the Otter Creek coal development the state economy would be significantly larger, more prosperous and more populous than would otherwise be the case,” the report said, adding the project could inject $1 billion into Montana’s economy.

Co-author and economist Patrick Barkey said: “The anticipated increase in coal demand in China between 2010 and 2035 is more than twice the US production of coal.

“South-East Asia does not have sufficient capacity to satisfy this growth.

“Because Montana coalfields are closer to northwest ports than those in Wyoming, Montana has a geographic advantage in serving fast-growing Asian markets.”

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