Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Montana state board rejects coal mine's rail spur application

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The Montana State Land Board Monday, fearful of conflicting effort, rejected a right-of-way application from a proposed Wyoming border coal mine seeking to build a rail spur into Montana. The rail line would connect the Youngs Creek coal operation to the existing BNSF Decker spur line.

Land board members worried the Wyoming coal mine could compete with Otter Creek coal access plans that the state seeks to advance. State Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the issue would be revisited at a September meeting focused on developing the state-owned coal.

Montana’s proposed access to Otter Creek coal reserves involves plans by the Tongue River Railroad, Inc.,  to construct 17.3 miles of new rail line. The project is opposed by ranchers and environmentalists, but in October 2007 the Surface Transportation Board issued a decision granting final approval to the Tongue River Railroad to construct the line, known as Tongue River III or the "Western Alignment," subject to environmental mitigation.