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Jul 10, 2013 1:30 AM by Q2 News

Crow Tribe Chairman testifies on developing Montana coal

WASHINGTON D.C. - Montana Congressman Steve Daines and Crow Tribe Chairman Darrin Old Coyote testified before a House Natural Resources subcommittee Tuesday, about the importance of Powder River Basin coal mining.

Rep. Daines pointed to the importance of coal in maintaining an affordable source of energy for American families and small businesses.

Chairman Old Coyote testified about the tribe's coal mining history and how it relies on its coal mining partners to responsibly develop its natural resources.

Specifically, Old Coyote spoke about the recent agreement between the Crow Tribe and Cloud Peak Energy that will open up access to more than 1.4 billion tons of coal in the North Power River Basin.

In Daines' opening remarks, he outlined the role Power River Basin coal plays in Montana, when last year alone coal sales generated $118 million dollars for Montana.

"Coal mining in Montana sustains 864 direct jobs, good, high-paying jobs with good benefits," said Daines.

"Future generations leave our state to find jobs elsewhere. Coal is part of the solution in Montana to keeping kids here that want to call Montana home." Daines said.

However, the nation's federal coal leasing program also has its critics, who contend that past coal deals have been undervalued, costing U.S. taxpayers millions.

At Tuesday's hearing, Office of Inspector General witness Mary Kendall said a handful of large companies in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming were responsible for most of the losses in federal revenue from federal coal leases.

Montana rancher Terry Point, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, faulted Daines and Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis for their lack of concern with the fact that the Bureau of Land Management accepts lower than its minimum bid levels for coal leases, even though half of the revenue from coal sales goes to support services and impacts in their home states.

Powder River Basin Resource Council rancher L.J. Turner, noted that he has seen water tables drop hundreds of feet on his ranch near massive strip mines in Campbell County, Wyoming.

"I hate to see us sell our coal to Asia for less than fair market value, especially when those of us who try to farm and ranch in coal country bear the burden of the off-site impacts -- the dust, the loss of water, the industrialization, the weeds, and the increased business costs."

Click on the video to watch part of today's testimony.

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