Get Ready for the Tongue River Railroad!
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17732) 12 years ago
The land board sold the Otter Creek coal tracks! Missoula hippies are getting handcuffed and arrested! The Tongue River Railroad will soon be built! Richard will have more billable work!

Looks like a win-win situation for everyone. Enjoy those high paying jobs, Southeatern Montana!
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
Um, yeah. The railroad will be built as soon as the mine is developed. The mine will be developed as soon as the railroad is finished. Someone has to lay down the first pile of money and hope that when they are finished, the next link in the chain connects. No profits for a decade or more.

I'm not a' holdin' my breath.
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
Hardly a win-win for the ranchers along the Tongue.
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Posted by Mandyrosy (+196) 12 years ago
"Some things are so destructive we shouldn't do them, no matter what they get us in the short term."

-Clint McRae, Rosebud County rancher
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17732) 12 years ago
Well, at least Missoula hippies are getting handcuffed and arrested. That's always a good thing.

And its up against the wall, Redneck Mother...
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Posted by RA (+643) 12 years ago
If you are one of the displaced ranchers involved, this is hardly what you would consider a "win-win" situation! As usual, individuals will consider it a "win-win" situation - as long as THEIR livelihood is NOT involved.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
I know I probably should have been more informed over the last 30 years or so, but does somebody want to give a readers digest version of this whole saga, what it's for, and who's for it and against it for those of us that haven't been paying attention?
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
Never mind, Wikipedia has the gist of it. For my fellow ignoramuses if they do indeed exist:

Wikipedia wrote:
Railroads
Since the settlement of Miles City, at the mouth of the Tongue, and the related settlement of Sheridan, Wyoming, located approximately 125 air miles to the south there has been much discussion of a north-south railroad connecting the cities and corridored along the Tongue River valley.[47] This has been the subject of many promotional business ventures over the years.

From 1923 to 1935 the North and South Railway promoted a rail line south from Miles City, Montana through Sheridan to Casper, Wyoming. The northern segment was to run along the Tongue between Miles City, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming. The southern segment was to run from Casper to Sheridan, Wyoming. Track was only laid on a portion of the southern segment. However, grading was done on the northern segment, and cuts and embankments can still be seen approximately 7 miles south of Miles City on the east side of the Tongue River. Financial problems caused the entire railroad project to be abandoned in 1935.

The current venture is the Tongue River Railroad, cussed and discussed over the past 25 years. Despite frequent press releases of imminent construction, not a single cubic foot of dirt has been disturbed in those 25 years. The impetus for the current venture is the prospect of hauling coal from strip mines which are existing and to be developed along the proposed route. Along the same proposed route, ranchers fear the effect of the proposed right of way upon their holdings in the Tongue River Valley, and the effect of newly developed strip mines and coalbed methane gas wells on the quality of water, since strip mines and coalbed methane wells can increase sodium content in surrounding water sources. Proposed construction of the Tongue River Railroad is a divisive issue between energy developers, landowners, and inhabitants, and is sure to spark spirited debate anywhere in Southeastern Montana.

The BNSF railroad operating between Sheridan, Wyoming and Billings, Montana runs along the Tongue for a distance of about 10 miles, starting from a point about 7 miles north of Sheridan, Wyoming. Though this segment of rail line along the Tongue was limited, from 1900 to 1940 coal was shipped by the railroad from underground coal mines located in the Tongue River valley, along this stretch of track. This railroad was a part of the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q, or "Burlington") railroad system, which has now been merged in the present Burlington, Northern, Sante Fe (BNSF) railroad system.

The Northern Pacific Railroad built track to Miles City, crossing the Tongue River in 1881,[48] about a mile from the junction of the Tongue and the Yellowstone. This construction was part of the mainline from St. Paul, Minnesota to the Pacific port of Tacoma, Washington completed in 1883,[48] and it is still in operation today as part of the BNSF (Burlington Northern Sante Fe) railroad.
The Milwaukee Road (the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway) completed its mainline from the midwest to Puget Sound in 1909.[49] This line also passed through Miles City and crossed the Tongue River between the existing NP tracks and the Yellowstone River. This line failed in the early 1980s and is no longer in use today.


I have to say, that is not particularly well written for a Wikipedia article. However, the general idea is there. Is the primary concern for ranchers on the tongue the railroad itself, the possibility of their property being strip mined against their will by those holding mineral rights to their land, or the potential damage to the water on their ranches?

[This message has been edited by Levi Forman (3/19/2010)]
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17732) 12 years ago
Don't forget the other half of the equation, Levi....the Otter Creek coal tracts. These were transferred from the federal government to the state by the Clinton administration as compensation for the lost revenues to the state that resulted as part of a 1996 federal government buyout to stop the New World mine near Cooke City.

Fourteen years we have been waiting for this! Let mining begin!
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
The Tongue River Railroad would be used as a shorter route to transport Wyoming coal way before Otter Creek coal. The Otter Creek coal has higher sodium levels. If the TRR was really about accessing Otter Creek coal it would be a spur running south to Decker.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
The Tongue River Railroad dates back well over 100 years. The earliest north south railroad was the Miles City-Deadwood line in the 1880's.

By the early 1900's some version of the Sheridan-Miles City was being promoted annually. I have an article from the 1909 Miles City Independent calling the Tongue River Railroad "A Sure Thing Next Year." They laid 20 feet of track for a "photo op" and then picked the track up again.

The 1923 version actually started construction and there are road cuts on some ranches south of town left from that. The 1923 version ran out of money and, with the Great Depression and WWII, nobody was thinking about building railroads. Railroads were old-fashioned and were torn up, not built, during the 1950's and 1960's.

In the late 1970's, the TRR again caught some investors eye and another variation was expected "next year," all through the 1970's and 1980's. There was a big federal hearing in Miles City in 1984 in preparation for the imminent construction.

Which brings up to 2010. Problem remains the same. Railroads are 19th century technology and mighty expensive to build without land grants. Coal is 19th century technology and mighty expensive to obtain and use. The mines won't be profitable until the RR is completed. The RR won't be profitable until the mines are completed.

So? Next year? Don't count on it.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
That's the abridged version Gunnar.

The whole story is Clinton made the swap agreement to stop that Gold Mine to make the hippies happy. Then as soon as the hippies were happy, he popped a squat on the land and refused to turn it over to the state for the rest of his term.

The Bush Administration finally made good on the promise and turned the land over to the state in 2002.

http://billingsgazette.co...30b43.html

As for the rest... It seems like if Miles City's a better route for Decker coal, it would be a no-brainer for Otter Creek.

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Posted by MrBalloonHands (+38) 12 years ago
Well, there goes all the good hunting along the Tongue River... oh wait, you can't get on 99% of it anyways.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
Coal is 19th century technology and mighty expensive to obtain and use.


Coal is the cheapest energy available... by far.

The only thing that makes it expensive is the lawyers.
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Posted by Food Critic (+37) 12 years ago
It won't be so cheap when you figure in the cost to future residents of planet Earth.
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Posted by GCC (-607) 12 years ago
Glad the Land Board made the right decision.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
You all should avoid getting your panties in a wad on this issue.

One of the first issues to address is the geology of the coal in the tract. Arch will have to figure out how deep in the ground it is, the thickness of the coal, the number of mineable seams etc. Based on the surface geology, the coal is probably faulted, meaning that you might have a good seam at 50 ft for a ways and then the coal drops 30 ft so that it is now 80 ft below the surface. That change in elevation has to be addressed in the mine plan. It also affects the strip ratio which has a bunch of economics attached. It will probably take 1-2 years just to get the drilling and geology done.

There are numerous baseline studies for vegetation, soils, alluvial valley floors, hydrology, wetlands etc that have to be completed before MT DEQ will issue a mining permit. And that is just for the mine. The baseline surveys and permit will take at least 2 years to get into place.

The railroad will require a wetland delineation and permit. Best case, the wetland field work will take survey most of a year. Who knows how long it will take the ACOE to review and issue a permit. The railroad will also require a T&E survey which will take 2 years.

So mining or a railroad is realistically 5-7 years off. And that is without the involvement of the Powder River Resource Council.

Yes, IF the TRR is built it will haul coal from Wyoming. But this is more about economics than some conspiracy. BNSF operates common carrier railroads. It order to obtain the funding for this project it has to have a lot of traffic. It is not cost effective to build a 80 mile spur for a mine that will produce 8-10 million tons of coal per year.

There are 4 things that should be done in the placement of the TRR:

1. Keep it out of the alluvial river valley as much as possible. BNSF wants a 1% grade, so it will need to be on flat ground, but there is no reason it has to run through the middle of cropland

2. The TRR corridor should be fenced.

3. They should install many box culverts that will minimally disrupt ranching operations.

4. They should build bridges for the landowners across the river.

Long story short, the land board to a step forward but there is a very long way to go before this project is operational.

Coal is 19th century technology and mighty expensive to obtain and use.


That is plain ignorance. Come to Gillette and look at a 21st century coal plant. It is the cheapest source of energy available.
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Posted by ron h (+57) 12 years ago
the tounge river railroad coming through miles city aint going to happen in our life time !
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
the tounge river railroad coming through miles city aint going to happen in our life time !


If you live only another 5-7 years, you're probably right.

Once this thing is under construction, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure Amorette gets to drive the golden spike.
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Posted by Bruce Helland (+593) 12 years ago
Lucky for us you have no power Richard.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
Burning dead dinosaurs and other old flora and fauna is old-fashioned. Adding methods of making it less toxic is a modern twist but you are still dealing with ancient technology.

I would be delighted to drive the Golden Spike. I will dress for the occasion. And I won't hold my breath until then.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1279) 12 years ago
Richard,

Thank you for a very informative response. Its nice to hear from someone who actually knows what he's talking about instead of just what one believes or reads in the paper. There's a lot of misinformation out there. And, yeah, a drive through Gillette would definately make someone dislike coal even more. I would hate to see MC grow any.

(And YES I understand only the RR is going to MC at this time and it won't help, but its a step to things that could come that way!)
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
I'm not against the coal companies developing their assets. That is their perogative. I'm for the preservation of property rights & building the railroad will trounce those.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
I don't know that it has to trounce them. I do understand and appreciate your concern, however.

Personally, I think that building a couple of new power plants in Ashland and using an overland conveyer from the mine to the power plant would be a win-win for everyone. It would create more high paying, long term, jobs than will a railroad.
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
My understanding is that the sodium level is too high for coal fired generators in Michigan, Texas & Colorado. Is that incorrect? I thought maybe they could market it to China through the port at Lewiston. I doubt China will worry much about cap & trade.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
I would hate to see MC grow any.


There's only two directions with this sort of thing. Forwards or backwards.

MC's population is already 20% lower than it was a few decades ago. It won't survive as a museum forever.

We need the growth. Not to say we have to be Gillette. I don't think we could be if we tried. But the more we say we can't... we won't.
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
First I'll say I reluctantly enter the fray over this very divisive issue. Also I'll say I am a Member of NPRC and the following are some of the things we are thinking about, have asked questions about, and have not gotten many answers of consequence.Here's a few things to think about which are put forward with all due respect to everyones' opinion and in the interest of true progress:

The Otter Creek Tracts: First, much of the coal lies on the valley floor, and second it has not been adequately determined if the valley floor is an alluvial valley. I think that current mining law prohibits mining of an alluvial valley. I'm pretty sure that was why the proposed Montco mine was never built just downstream.

In the book Morning Star, Black Sun by Brent Ashabranner, 1982,Dodd, Mead, and Company, ISBN 0-396-08045-6; pp, 90-95, the issues of leasing coal on the Northern Cheyenne reservation are discussed. The prices offered to the Northern Cheyenne from 1966-1972 for their coal without infrastructure were from 15-17.5 cents. The Otter Creek tracts were leased with a bonus bid of 15 cents. While 85 million dollars american is nothing to sneeze at, were the members of the landboard who voted for this truly fiscally responsible in not gaining additional funds to address the costs of inflation?

Will this low bid in effect serve to subsidize the building of the mine infrastructure and the TRR by the citizens of Montana?

A Mine at Otter Creek will be located in Powder River Co. and will benefit Powder River Co. which surely can use the financial boost, but how will the increased demands to the services( LE, Schools, etc.) in Ashland, the closest town which is located in Rosebud Co. be paid for?

TRR: How do you redesign and reorganize current profitable, taxpaying and commerce supporting ranching and farming operations around a railroad while it is being built, and after it is running and stay in business? How much does it cost to take down, redesign and re-level, re-farm, replant and rebuild a center pivot field? Fencing, fence maintenance. Who will pay for all of that in the 90 miles of RR right of way? The lost income while all that occurs.

This land will be obtained in many cases by eminent domain by a private corporation which is not likely to be a common carrier, and has said that they will sell coal to China who will continue to produce products to be sold in the US which will displace US workers, etc...

Many of these same issues were what caused NPRC to form in 1972 with the development of the mines and power plants at Colstrip and in the Bull Mountains, and in reality are still on going and have not been addressed or solved.

With all due respect to our need for good paying jobs and the need to keep kids here, I hope you all can agree, that these questions are in need of answers and the answers are vital to the continued well being of our communities.

Brad
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
The population of Miles City is around 8500, just as it has been since 1917. It has NOT dropped 20% in the last 20 years. It did drop in the 1980's from a high of around 9,000, partly due to the Reagan years economy and partly due to the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee but it has been creeping up in the last decade. We are not a museum. Not by a long shot. And the TRR will not suddenly create the kind of jobs the Milwaukee did in 1907. So, that argument doesn't hold water.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
With all due respect, Brad, from what I've seen... if there's a disagreement to had about anything, NPRC will have it.

And then if they can't find one, they'll make one up.

Coal to China? Really? To me it's about time WE sold something to THEM for a change. They're not going to stop manufacturing just because we won't sell them Montana coal.

There are legitimate beefs to be worked over, for sure. But it's hard to take a group seriously when, time after time, the only thing constructive they have to offer is NIMBY.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
The 1980 census was 9602. The last census estimate for 2008 was 8102.

Might not be quite 20%, but it's over 15%.

I think the county is even worse.

It did drop in the 1980's from a high of around 9,000, partly due to the Reagan years economy and partly due to the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee but it has been creeping up in the last decade.


Amorette, seriously, you need to go look up GDP over the 1980's. Just because things were bad in MC does not mean they were bad for the US. The economy as a whole exploded in the 80's.

[This message has been edited by Rick Kuchynka (3/20/2010)]
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Posted by howdy (+4950) 12 years ago
Reagan was a horrid president IMO...Amorette is correct...He broke the country while taking care of the larger corporations...Remember "trickle down economics"? Quadrupled the national debt with such things as his "star wars" project which proved to be the ultimate failure...a lot of our heavy industry went overseas for the benefit of the large corporations...executives of large corporations were allowed to raid the pension funds of unions and took the lions share of it for their "golden parachutes"...OH yeah, great guy Reagan NOT!!! Harry Truman would have kicked his ass LOL...He was truly the last "peoples president"...
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1279) 12 years ago
Can we please not turn this informative thread and discussion on SE MT coal and the benifits/drawbacks into a rant on Reagan?

The cost of inflation on coal doesn't make much sense if the people who are buying it draw the line at 15 cents. We can "hold out", but then we don't sell it.

Yes, the mine will be in Powder River County. But Colstrip is in Rosebud County, and benifits Miles City by employing it's residents and by those residents spending their money in MC. Increased schools, LE, etc. are supported by higher tax base from the operation. Those things go up and down together. Plus, do you think that everyone who works at the mine will want to live in Ashland? Probably not.

Does it really matter to the NPRC who the coal gets sold to? Isn't the idea of commerce to sell your product? I believe like Rick, if China wants it, here you go. It doesn't meet standards of surrounding states? So what? A Mercedes is not a car for every budget, but does that mean they shouldn't be sold?

Finally, NPRC was formed to get answers for the same kinds of questions for Colstrip and the Bull Mountains, and yet, those areas were developed and are successful.

I think the statement "that these questions are in need of answers and the answers are vital to the continued well being of our communities." is a bit dramatic and overplayed. But the passion is admirable.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
And who is worried about rewriting history?!

Meanwhile we were trying to build a coal mine...
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
Does one bid for a product a competitive process make? Will the payment for the coal be larger than the longterm costs associated with the development of the resource? Is it okay to put someone out of business to in order to sell a raw product to another country which will in turn sell things back to us?

Will Rosebud county be happy to deal(pay for) with issues caused by Powder river county development in Ashland? I think a number of people will live in Ashland,as well as Broadus but I think Wyoming will benefit alot too for Montanas' development.

The point on the price and the coal is subsidization.

Why are'nt reclaimation jobs just as important as extraction jobs, the dollars spend the same, yet there are miles of unreclaimed stripmine at Colstrip, and fewer jobs in reclaimation as well as company lobbying to change law and reduce reclaimation efforts.

Who became responsible for the Zortman Cleanup? Different place, but the principle is the same.
Who will be responsible for the leaking ash pond at Colstrip which is on the top 10 of the EPA's watch list of potential superfund sites. Remember that little subsidence in Kentucky two falls ago. Toxic ash 5 feet deep for some miles; NIMBY if I have anything to say about it for sure.
Who will be responsible for the bad water polluting the groundwater aquifers as we write, in two drainages below these ponds. The wells on private land are unuseable...poison water to animals and humans. The states' test wells link right to the ash ponds. Is this important?

Why do you think that things are going as well at colstrip as they have? Where did the reclaimation laws come from? Who had to be responsible for the damage to the residents of Colstrip homes resulting from blasting and leaking ponds? Did thet take care of their own people willingly?

I can go on... Why should we be concerned with the Flathead and not be with this country. Why is there a double standard? Don't get me wrong, I know we need jobs and electricity, but why should I have to be worried about my livelihood,and the wells on our place. Isn't there a way to do both? might that not be where there there is additional employment that is not at someone else's expense?
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Posted by GCC (-607) 12 years ago
Howdy, you're attempting to rewrite history again but you got it in the wrong chapter, please refer to the fiction chapter.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1279) 12 years ago
Appears to be an exposed nerve here..... So is this long response and the emotion it shows tied to YOUR beliefs or those of the NPRC? Because to maintain integrity and respect, the council can not respond emotionally to things. And neither should its members in public. Show some facts and supporting data, and then there is a discussion. But emotions are not going to further the NPRC's cause.
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Posted by howdy (+4950) 12 years ago
don't wish to further this topic on this thread but GCC, you must be referring to your history book published by FOX NEWS...What I said was actually factual...but I won't be saying anymore on the topic as I don't want to screw up this thread..
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Posted by GCC (-607) 12 years ago
No, I'm referring to yours Howdy published by the Cartoon Network.
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
Here are a few citations for some of the things I mentioned.

Colstrip Ash Ponds
http://www.epa.gov/epawas.../index.htm

Colstrip Ash Ponds
deq.mt.gov/MFS/ColstripSt...xt Version

House Bill 278:2009 Reduction in Reclaimation work
http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/default.asp
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
Seriously, if you want to talk about the merits of dead presidents, start a new thread. Considering though, that all you're doing is hurling insults, I would suggest just dropping it.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
Does one bid for a product a competitive process make?


See, this just doesn't hold any water. The state put it out for bid more than once (at above market value)

They finally lowered their price to the point where they get one bid, and then you paint it like the State just hand picked one company and handed them a contract.

I know we need jobs and electricity, but why should I have to be worried about my livelihood,and the wells on our place. Isn't there a way to do both? might that not be where there there is additional employment that is not at someone else's expense?


I'm not sure what you're asking here. Is there a way to generate a large amount of electricity without disrupting anyone anywhere in any way?

No, quite honestly there isn't.

There are few regions left on earth as sparsely populated as SE Montana. Add to that some of the largest coal reserves on that planet, and what we have is a no-brainer.

Disruption is part of change and progress. If NPRC were reasonably working to minimize those disruptions for its members, I think everyone would cheer them along, and even help out where they could.

But as the years roll on, alot of people have come to the conclusion that NPRC specializes mostly in building stone walls.

[This message has been edited by Rick Kuchynka (3/21/2010)]
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
I remember in the 1970's, during the last bout of the TRR will be here "next year," that pundits were predicting Miles City's population would double by 2000. I have no idea why. Even if the TRR ever does show up (by the time it does, I suspect it will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells ) it won't bring some huge pile of jobs with it. The Milwaukee employed around 1,000 people in Miles City. The TRR will probably have, oh, say, none. Trains arrive here and switch to the BNSF track.

Coal miners won't live here. Maybe half a dozen train guys. Taxes will head directly to Helena to be disbursed in western Montana, same as now.

So, how will this make things all rosy in Miles City? Short answer. It won't. It will have an effect on many things, including agriculture in the Tongue River valley, but it will in no way be the miracle that some folks seem to expect.

[This message has been edited by Amorette Allison (3/21/2010)]
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
More trains= more engineers.

More track= more track maintenance.

And Coal, and Colstrip have a huge impact on Miles City's economy. Ask a business owner.

We can keep waiting for that silver bullet until the last building on Main Street blows down. Or we can take our opportunities one at a time, and eventually rebuild this community.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
We are still not talking the miraculous population doubling and huge piles of jobs that some people seem to be expecting. Yes, there will be an effect but not an enormous one.

And the community is actually doing very nicely. I base that on the new building on Main, the new building on Haynes, the other new building on Main, the lack of housing available, the number of businesses needing employees, etc. all of which are happening with or without the TRR.

The TRR will neither make or break or Miles City. Neither did the Milwaukee and it did have a HUGE effect on the community.

What will have a HUGE effect on the community is the flood map. Worry about that. It IS coming and the TRR is still pie in the sky.
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
Here are a couple of ideas that are working else where and could be used here:

Hydropower in the Dam that forms the Tongue River Reservoir. To me it makes more sense then mining coal, shipping it to Great Falls after building a power plant and then shipping the power back down here. The Dam is there already, there would be jobs and less impact.

Biomass: Those big piles of limbs and trees in the landfill at Miles City and Forsyth that grows larger every year, is useable to generate power. There are some local folks looking into using logging slash in the small power plant at Colstrip. Could also use Russian Olive and Salt Cedar as fuel. Both Noxious weeds and big dollar sinks for control efforts that are not all that effective long term and too expensive to be widely applied. Reduction in Federal and State budgets, Less use of chemicals, jobs, use existing infrastructure.Lemonade out of lemons. Might even be a possible byproduct in the sulper left in the ash.Check out the Fuels for Schools websitehttp://www.fuelsforschool...rbios.html

Energy Efficient building retrofits: Saves money, makes jobs, uses existing buildings.

Solar Panels: Panels on Houses and buildings, just need them to become mass produced and more affordable. There are some modern day Henry Ford's working on this. Already happening in many places, uses existing space, creates jobs, has some impact from the making of solar panels.

Wind Generators: Already happening.The Transmission line issue has to be resolved somehow though.

My Grandpa told me about how there were quite a few people that were reluctant to switch from horses to tractors.
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Posted by Bob Netherton II (+1911) 12 years ago
The flood map is great - if you're selling flood insurance.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
The world's largest solar plant puts out something around 3% Colstrip's capacity.

And I'm venturing to guess if someone wanted to build one of those on your place, the NPRC would still have those attorneys working overtime.

Biofuels as Richard has addressed before, are pretty much energy neutral. You might get out what you put in (planting, growing, harvesting) if you're lucky. They only get grown because the government subsidizes it. Unsustainable.

And if they wanted to put turbines up at TRR, that would be fine. The proposal I saw would put it around 1 1000th of the Colstrip plants' capacity.

And that doesn't even count that most of the coal from Colstrip isn't even burned there. There is no legitimate alternative to the kind of energy capacity coal gives us. Everything else you mentioned is mostly wishful thinking.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
There is no legitimate alternative to the kind of energy capacity coal gives us.


Except nuclear.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
Good luck there.
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Posted by Bruce Helland (+593) 12 years ago
Why is it that when people talk energy they focus on replacement not supplement? (Rick?) There is nothing wrong with using alternatives to supplement our existing needs. History (unrevised) shows that as technology improves an energy delivery system it becomes more efficent and eventually replaces a current system.
By clinging to the past, we doom ourselves to failure. Witness China's advancment in solar and wind energy relative to ours.

Why is it that we must cling to the past and not move forward?
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1279) 12 years ago
Bruce, I agree with suppliment. But our NPRC friend wants those things instead of coal. I agree with Rick, we could never build enough turbines, dams, bush burning plants to produce enough to replace coal.

And a power plant on the Tongue? Does the Tongue even have water? I don't see too much power from the 3 feet at Miles City in July!
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
Good luck there.


It's a new day though! Barak Obama, John Kerry, and Barbara Boxer are pro-nuke. The American people are coming around:



Of course I think the thing that poll leaves out is that 60% of the 62% in favor are only in favor if it's at least 500 miles from their house .
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
I don't believe I ever suggested replacing coal. I did ask alot of questions in a rhetorical sense, about what will be done to deal with the impacts from coal and railroad development and the legitimacy of the sale of the Otter Creek tracts as well as expressing some personal concerns relative to my livelihood.In 30 years of coal development there are numerous instances of corporate irresponsibility. I cited some of the current examples.

Bruce and Levi bring up the point I was hoping some of you might consider. Diversity in power generation.Is there only one stock in an investment portfolio?

The Madison river in early september is pretty low? It has a power generating station at the lower end of Hebgen Lake.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1279) 12 years ago
Well Brad, you now bring up the problem with everything in the world... responsiblity. Not who's going to take it, but when will those with it handle it correctly. Leaking holding ponds, nuclear meltdowns from alarms being shut off (did you know that when TMI initially began to melt down, the operators didn't know it because the alarm speaker that warned them had been turned down?), the Patriot Act, etc. etc. etc.

All of these things have one thing in common... the persons "responsible" didn't act "responsibly". This will continue to happen no matter what because not every person in "responsiblity" cares that they are the ones "responsible" and don't act appropriately. Unless one values the magnatude of his responsiblity, and takes it seriously, accidents will happen.

I did research on TMI for a class recently. Read up on that... interesting info.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3707) 12 years ago
Three Mile Island, the "disaster" where not even one person was injured but nuclear power came to a halt in the US for 30 years.

Regardless, modern nuclear power plants are by design incapable of melting down, no matter how responsible or irresponsible the people running them are.
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
Yup, the R word...something for all of us in there. I will look up the TMI deal. Have any suggestions on where to look for starters besides a generic search?

Alot of the things of note with this coal stuff seem to be in the lack of diligence in the enforcement of existing laws. It would be pretty hard to know where to start sometimes I suppose. To the best of my knowledge, the DEQ has only one guy for water issues for all of eastern Montana.

Thanks for the good discussion.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
I will put almost any post-1977 coal mine reclamation up against the average ranch in SE Montana and absolutely kick the ranches butt in terms of ground cover, productivity, and diversity.
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
No argument with you there Richard,most outfits have one or more places they are not too proud of. The conscientious ones are working on it.How about the restoration of hydrologic balance and functioning aquifers? Are you guys having any luck with that in Wyoming? It's a pretty tough thing to get going again seems like. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it, or if you can suggest some good references. Mostly here, it(reclamation) seems to have slowed way down or stopped.
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
For me the TRR is all about eminent domain. I think using it to build the railroad is an abuse of eminent domain which is spelled out in the 5th amendment.
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
Bruce, I'm not saying anything negative about wind or solar. They're just not game-changers, and I'm pretty sure the physics behind them will leave them as a niche for the forseeable future.

Yes, China's developing wind and solar. But if we're talking about preventing a new coal mine, I don't think "What would China do?" is the question you really want to ask.

I'd be happy to hear anything you've got to say on China's wind and solar program. But given the chance, they would've developed Otter Creek faster than you can say photovoltaic.

Cindy, if you can't use eminent domain to build a railroad, you really can't use it for anything.
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
Rick,

I tried to keep this brief. I agree with Justice O'Connor.

The federal courts haven't restrained state/local governments from seizing private land for private commercial development on behalf of private developers. In 2005 there was a controversial Supreme Court decision 5-4 vote on Kelo v City of New London.

In the dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor argued that this decision would allow the rich to benefit at the expense of the poor, asserting that "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." She argued that the decision eliminates "any distinction between private and public use of property-and thereby effectively deletes the words 'for public use' from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment".
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11978) 12 years ago
Know what happened in New London? The developers won, leveled the neighborhood and then decided to build elsewhere, leaving a BIG empty lot where taxpaying homeowners used to live. GO SUPREMES!
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Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4458) 12 years ago
We had a whole discussion on Kelo. First off, it was your side of the court that made that decision. The court's contructionists and originalists agreed with you, in that particular case.

But in this particular case, we have access to public land, for access to public (and private) coal, for delivery to public (and private) utilities for public consumption.

Like I said, if you can't use eminent domain for this, you can't really use it for anything.
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Posted by Stone (+1591) 12 years ago
"First off, it was your side of the court that made that decision."

Rick, there is no your side. It is all our side-unless you are a billionaire.
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Posted by Bill Tramp (+321) 12 years ago
Is the tradeoff worth it here? We're getting a bit of dirty coal energy and a few tax dollars for; messed up aquifers/springs/wells, bissected ranches, more lost native rangeland, a new railroad through our "Flathead", and many more obnoxious trains blasting through our neighborhood.
This is typical mineral resource extraction in MT: get it out quick/cheap, the heck with the future.

Dirty coal in the ground can be a source of clean fuel that's somewhat renewable. Bacteria down there are busy chowing down and converting it to a clean gas that doesn't need a railroad to get it where it's needed. That gas can be slowly harvested provided the water is put back where it came from.

Why can't we use our good old American ingenuity and figure out a better way. We may not have the technology to do this right but what's the hurry?
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15082) 12 years ago
You make a good point, Bill, about converting this coal to gas. This would be the best use for coal that is water logged, has a high strip ratio and is a little high in sodium. The technology exists to make this happen.

It is my personal opinion that the Otter Creek mine is much to do about nothing. I don't believe the coal will be mined. I believe that once Arch does the engineering work, they will conclude that it isn't economically feasible to mine the Otter Creek tract. Arch's interest is as much about adding potential reserves to keep their stock price up and compete with Peabody Energy for investment income as much as anything. There is a law in Wyoming that limits the percentage of the coal market by any one company. Arch is up against that limit. By adding "reserves" in MT they can get around the WY ownership obstacle and still attract investment dollars.

Otter Creek and the TRR are in many ways two different projects. The TRR can become a reality without Otter Creek. Youngs Creek mine is a new operation just south of Decker in Wyoming. The plans for that mine include shipping coal on the TRR.

[This message has been edited by Richard Bonine, Jr (3/23/2010)]
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Posted by Brad Sauer (+41) 12 years ago
If Arch is doing what you suggest Richard, it is in keeping with the history of the Montco mine.

Here is,a little more roughage for rumination on a related subject:


http://www.huffingtonpost...11214.html
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Posted by Wil Nelson (+76) 12 years ago
As I understand it Otter Creek coal is low in sulfur. About 50% of the electricity generated in the US is from coal and using low sulfur coal would reduce emissions in coal burning plants that were (re)configured to use the coal. As for the other alleged problems with ground water etc. they can be managed. New coal fired power plants currently being built produce significantly fewer emissions than the old ones. Duke is currently building a new coal plant twice the size of two old coal plants that will be scrapped and the single new plant produces fewer emissions than the total of the two older plants combined. The population of the country is increasing and even with conservation new energy resources will be needed so why not benefit from the situation.

Having lived in Miles City from the mid 50's to the mid 60's I saw the city throw away to opportunities for new industry one being the Convoy company and the other a shoe manufacturer it would be a shame to once again see the same thing happen by not supporting the Otter Creek Coal/Tongue River RR project.

The main problem Miles City and other towns such as Broadus is that they have is to many people chasing to few dollars. Insufficient money comes into the city to promote growth let alone maintain the existing infrastructure. The country will grow and Miles City should be part of that growth and benefit from that. Montana has shown in the past, such as with environment restoration projects at Coal Strip, that it can manage environmental concerns and even end up with improvements over existing conditions to the benefit of all.
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+592) 12 years ago
Thanks for the industry insight Richard. I've been wondering if this was a DeBeers & diamonds thing.
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