I attended the December Land Board hearing where the leasing of the Otter Creek Coal tracts was approved on a 4–1 vote (see "Coal in their stockings," Dec. 24, 2009). I want to thank State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau for her "no" vote. She exemplifies true Montana courage by standing up, alone, for sound stewardship of our state's resources.
The proposal to strip mine a productive agricultural valley in southeastern Montana would never have gotten this far at the Land Board had it been proposed for western Montana. Remember the outcry from our governor when the Flathead Valley was threatened by coal and coal bed methane development just north of our border in British Columbia? Why is similar development so easy to accept in the Tongue and Powder River valleys?
Juneau understands that there has been no discussion of the environmental, economic and social aspects and costs associated with leasing this coal. She understands that the money that goes into the School Trust Fund does not automatically go to the schools because it is only the Legislature that can appropriate money for the schools. She understands that leasing Otter Creek coal means the construction of the Tongue River Railroad, which would result in a competitive threat to existing Montana coal producers. She understands that global climate change is real and that the burning of coal is a significant contributor.
So, thank you, Denise Juneau, for your vote, your commitment to the future of Montana and our schools, and for your leadership.