As I type this, people from across the region are sitting in break-out groups on the floor of the central rotunda.
Some are discussing impacts of rail traffic to local business and health, others, the impacts of climate change in the West. Folks have come here today from all across the state, as well as Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Texas, Illinois, California, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. People here have one thing on their mind: stopping coal exports.
Today marks the first day of a week-long protest at the Montana State Land Board in opposition to the Otter Creek mine proposal. Companies like Arch coal want to open mines for the purpose of exporting coal overseas to Asian markets. These mine-for-export projects pose serious threats to public health, the local economy, the regional and immediate environment, and the global climate.
The actions, for me, started several days ago. Camped out at the Plymouth Congregational Church, folks organizing the Coal Export Action transformed the cozy basement into a beehive of activity. We built banners, painted signs, phonebanked hundreds of Montana residents, called media, tweeted, cooked delicious meals, and, of course, shared stories. Late last night, Montanans from around the state huddled around a computer to draft the following letter to Governor Schweitzer.
More than 50 people marched inside the capitol this morning after a brief rally outside to deliver the letter to the Governor’s staff in person. Chanting and cheering, participants remained in the capitol and sat down on the floor under the beautiful old rotunda. Banners now hang, with the help of the friendly facilities crew, in every corner and over every railing in the central corridor. From the ports to the plains, our message is clear: No Coal Exports!
Follow the events live on twitter @GreenpeaceCO, @CoalExportAction or @QuitCoal. You can also follow the twitter feed #nocoalexports or #stopcoalexports.
Letter from the people of Montana:
Dear Governor Schweitzer,
We, the people, are here today participating directly in the governance of our state and our legacy. We understand that you, as a member of the Montana State Land Board, have the authority to make the decision on Otter Creek. As our elected leader, we request that you deny the Otter Creek permit and act in the interest of the people of the great State of Montana.
Otter Creek will lay the infrastructure to expedite American resources out of Montana and overseas. There are many unexamined risks associated with Otter Creek and the proposed coal export projects through the Pacific Northwest. These include risks to public health, our local economy, traditional ranching heritage, private property rights, local environmental impacts, and our global climate.
As Montanans we have to ask ourselves what does the future hold for the Last Best Place. Does it hold that we choose the path of short-term economic benefit and ignore the long-term negative impacts?
We have already gone down the path of blind resource exploitation and look what it has done for us. Huge costs to our health, our land, our air, and our water. Montana is already home to the nation’s most expensive Superfund Site, the Clark Fork River from Butte to Milltown. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
Montana is no stranger to the corruption that comes with massive mining projects. In 1912 Montanans, through a citizens’ initiative, passed the Corrupt Practices Act. This is a law you are fighting to uphold. Furthermore, while creating a new constitution in 1972, Montanans established we have the right to a clean and healthful environment.
Generations before us have spoken on this issue. We are here representing their voices, our own, as well as generations of Montanans to come. Deny Otter Creek and protect our legacy.
Participants in the Rally to Defend Our Communities and the Coal Export Action
August 13-20, 2012