It's alchemy! The University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently released two different studies on behalf of coal development in Montana, and they prove the bureau has to believe in alchemy, the ancient art of transforming an ordinary material like straw into gold, because they take the economic costs of coal and magically transform them into benefits.
For example, UM's bureau says that mining the Otter Creek will "help create a more productive, prosperous, and populous state economy," but all the costs of mining the pristine area around Otter Creek in Montana disappear in their reports.
To haul the coal out, the Tongue River Railroad will have to be built. This will slice through ranching operations up and down the Tongue River, disturbing wildlife habitat and ranching operations. Selling coal to China will also dramatically increase railroad traffic across Montana, splitting cities like Billings and Missoula in half, harming downtown businesses.
Once the coal is burned in China, the emissions from it return to us in Montana faster than we send it over, according to Steve Running, a climatologist at UM. These emissions will include toxic mercury, which will harm the brain development of children across the state, and carbon dioxide, which will cause climate change and harm agriculture.
Surly these costs matter, but coal mining is magic. These costs all disappear in the UM reports. Thomas Power and Donovan Power have written an eviscerating rebuttal of the coal reports, and you can read it at meic.org.