What Coal Exports Mean for Montana

Coal Mines Damage Ranch Land: For decades, ranchers in eastern Montana have made a living off the land, benefiting local economies at the same time.  Now, coal mining threatens to permanently degrade valuable ranchland, while polluting and depleting community water supplies.  In eastern Montana’s dry environment, vegetation takes an unusually long time to recover from mining.  Meanwhile, removal of coal from the ground robs the earth of a natural aquifer water filtration system.  With reduced natural vegetation for livestock to graze, and less clean water for farming, agriculture in Montana becomes more difficult as coal mining expands.  Learn more about the impacts of coal mining on ranch land

Coal Trains Pollute Communities: From the mines, Montana coal is loaded into trains for transport.  Most of these trains now service existing US coal plants and export terminals in Canada—but if coal companies get their way, the number of trains will increase dramatically to feed export markets.  Coal trains passing through cities like Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and other cities are already a source of coal dust pollution and toxic diesel fumes.  Now coal export proposals threaten to compound the existing problem, subjecting working-class rail line communities to further pollution.  See how coal trains impact rail line communities in Missoula

Coal Slows the Global Shift to Clean Energy: Through existing coal export terminals in Canada and proposed ports on the US West Coast, coal giants want to ship Montana coal to China and other growing economies.  In China, villages are fighting construction of some of the biggest new coal plants in the world—projects that threaten air and water quality, and traditional ways of life in China.  By fueling these damaging plants, coal exports threatens to exacerbate global environmental injustice while delaying the transition to clean energy throughout the world.  Learn about one Chinese community’s resistance to dirty coal projects


Photo credit: Missoulian

Coal Causes Climate Change: Carbon emissions from smokestacks fueled by US coal exports would contribute massively to climate change, threatening Montana with longer droughts, worse fire seasons, and more severe pest outbreaks.  By keeping the international cost of coal artificially low, coal exports would keep developing countries dependent on dirty fuel for decades to come.  The consequences would be disastrous: studies show the carbon footprint of coal export projects would be worse than that of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  See what exporting coal means for the climate