Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Cows vs. coal: Asian energy boom threatens Montana ranchers
ROUNDUP, Mont. - — The big mining companies first came knocking on Ellen Pfister's door in the 1970s, ready to tap the huge coal deposits beneath her family's eastern Montana ranch. Pfister and others successfully fended them off, and as the coal industry retreated domestically, it appeared their battle might be won. But now, a fast-growing market in exporting coal to Asia has Pfister and other ranchers seeing their long-held fears become reality. With the once-shuttered Bull Mountain Mine under new ownership, mining activity beneath Pfister's 300-head cattle ranch is in full swing, on target to produce more than 9 million tons of coal this year. At least once a day on average a coal train more than a mile long pulls out of the mine that sits atop an estimated one billion tons of the fuel. Sixty percent is destined for overseas markets, including Asia. Pfister's biggest worry is that mining could permanently damage her water supplies — a crucial necessity on a ranch set in central Montana's arid landscape of sandstone, sage brush and ponderosa pine trees stunted by drought. Trucks rumble along access roads to the mine carved into the rocky coulees that lace through the ranch, which Pfister inherited from her mother and runs with husband, Don Golder. Giant fissures have appeared where portions of the mine collapsed after coal was removed. U.S. coal exports hit their highest level in two decades last year, with 107 million tons of coal sent primarily to Asia and Europe...more