When making decisions that affect thousands of constituents, public officials have a responsibility not only to be transparent, but to listen to and actively encourage public input. This week the Montana Land Board failed in this responsibility, casting doubt on how the Board will handle decisions about the Otter Creek coal export mine.
Maybe it’s just that the Land Board’s got wind of the mass peaceful protests against coal exports planned for later this month. On Monday, with only four days’ advance notice, the Board announced their August meeting is being re-scheduled from August 20th to Friday, August 3rd. It looks an awful lot like the Board’s trying to avoid holding their meeting during the Coal Export Action, when they know their actions related to coal mining will be subject to heightened public scrutiny.
This isn’t in keeping with good governance. Montana’s state code requires “adequate notice” be given to “assist public participation before a final agency action is taken that is of significant interest to the public.” The Land Board hasn’t violated the letter of the law – the code doesn’t specify what “adequate notice” means – but re-scheduling a meeting date posted months in advance, with only four days’ notice, is hardly in keeping with a spirit of encouraging public input.
The Coal Export Action, of course, is now more important than ever. When a public process is rigged against the public, we must turn to massive, peaceful protest to get the attention of decision-makers. Fortunately, it’s just this type of large-scale direct action that’s planned for the Coal Export Action this month. You can help by joining us.
In the past, Land Board members ignored hundreds of Montanans who submitted comments, turned out to hearings, and signed petitions opposing the Otter Creek Mine. Now they appear to be trying to minimize the opportunity for public input. But starting August 13th, our sit-in in the Capitol rotunda, between the offices of Land Board members Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, will make our demand for a clean energy future free of coal impossible to ignore any longer.
Since the Land Board has moved their August meeting date to the 3rd, the August 20th meeting – which would have fallen right at the end of the Coal Export Action – will no longer take place. That won’t stop Arch Coal from moving forward with plans to submit its mining application, which it’s expected to do late this summer. And it won’t stop us coming to the Capitol to shine a light on a decision-making process that favors Big Coal over Montana communities.
Indeed, this isn’t just about coal anymore: it’s about holding government bodies accountable when they fail to practice good government. You can help us succeed. Join us at the Coal Export Action.