Last summer, 23 people were arrested protesting coal exports at the Montana State Capitol, in the largest act of climate and energy-related civil disobedience in Montana history. That action was a big step toward the kind of powerful, people-driven movement we need to stop the world’s biggest coal companies from turning Montana into an energy resource colony. But at Coal Export Action, we’ve always known this fight would be a long one – and lately we’ve been hearing from more and more people asking, “When will it be time to put our bodies on the line again?”
Today, we’re excited to announce the next big phase in our effort to harness the power of peaceful, disciplined, nonviolent civil disobedience. This year we’re again inviting those concerned about Montana coal exports to use direct action to take our movement to the next level. And, yes, it will once again involve ordinary people risking arrest. Here’s the plan:
At 12:00pm on Sunday, September 15th, people from across Montana will converge in Helena for another large-scale direct action, designed to reclaim our state’s lines of commerce from the coal export industry. The action will include a family-friendly rally at Hill Park that all are invited to – and a nonviolent direct action for those who are ready for civil disobedience. Then, on Monday morning, we’ll go to the State Capitol building and bring our message straight to members of the State Land Board.
Those of us participating in Sunday’s direct action will risk arrest for trespass, as with dignity and discipline we drive home the seriousness of our message. It isn’t lightly that we ask you to seriously consider taking this step. The truth is, though, that there’s far too much at stake for us not to take every peaceful step to stop Montana coal exports. Peaceful, disciplined civil disobedience is the best way we know to convey the seriousness of the situation, and show our willingness to do what it takes to stop the coal export disaster.
The fact is, communities in Montana and elsewhere are already suffering from the effects of coal exports. Uncovered trains carrying coal to the existing export terminals in Canada are polluting rail line communities with toxic coal dust and diesel fumes. In Eastern Montana, existing coal mine operations have depleted aquifers and threaten agriculture where farmers and ranchers have lived off the land for generations. These local side effects of coal mining and transport endanger people’s health and livelihoods, and would be reason enough to be deeply concerned about coal exports.
Just weeks ago, Montana and much of the rest of the West was engulfed by a record-setting heat wave of the type scientists say we can expect to see more of with climate change. In the last few years, warming global temperatures have led to worse droughts and longer fire seasons in Montana, combined with reduced snow pack and decreased precipitation. These kinds of climate-related disasters threaten people’s lives, livelihoods, and entire sectors of our economy.
Unfortunately, rather than responding to climate change and the human health impacts of coal, Montana decision makers are bent on leasing even more land to the coal industry. The State of Montana, in the guise of the new Bullock administration, is now reviewing Arch Coal’s plan to mine Eastern Montana’s Otter Creek tracts. The Otter Creek Mine is meant to feed proposed new coal export terminals on the coasts of Washington and Oregon, which are also going through the permitting stages.
The final decision on Otter Creek – which, if built, would be one of the largest coal mines in North America – will be made by Montana’s State Land Board, possibly as soon as this fall. While we remain hopeful that the mine can be stopped, our frank assessment is that if the vote came today, the Land Board would approve Arch’s permit.
That’s where you come in. To change the politics of coal leasing in Montana, we need an outpouring of citizen activism. And while civil disobedience isn’t the only tool at our disposal, it’s certainly one of the most important. We’re hoping this year’s direct action will prove to be even more powerful than last year’s sit-in at the Capitol. Combined with other efforts to put pressure on state decision makers, we hope it will be enough to stop Arch Coal from getting its permit to mine Otter Creek.
We don’t have much time to spare. If you’re ready to join us this September, please let us know.
If you can donate to help make the action a success, please pitch in what you can here.
The Coal Export Action Team