A report by the Montana Environmental Information Center and Environment Montana states that in one instance, Western Energy's Rosebud Coal Mine in eastern Montana exceeded the allowed amount of pollution into area waterways by up to 19,500 percent.

Skye Borden of Environment Montana listed in a press conference on Thursday that there were at least three instances that the Rosebud Mine exceeded allowable pollution by 500 percent or more.

“The first one, they dumped 7,000 percent of their permitted amount of iron into the waterway,” Borden began. “The second time it was 3,500 percent of the iron they were permitted to dump, and the last one was particularly extreme, and the highest I’ve seen looking through the database, as 19,500 percent of the solids they were allowed to dump through their permit.”

Borden said after several reports of exceeding their permitted waste by over 500 percent, they received a single warning letter from the Environmental Protection Agency in November, 2017.

Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center said Western Energy’s Rosebud mine is the sole source of coal for the Colstrip coal-fired power plants.

“The State Department of Environmental Quality has failed to renew the company’s pollution discharge permit that expired in 2004,” said Hedges. “When they tried to renew the permit, the court two years ago yesterday, threw that action out and said they had to go back to the drawing board because the state had let Western Energy get away with insufficient monitoring and allowing pollution in an impaired waterway. That was over two years ago, and we have not seen the state take any action to issue a new permit.”

The Colstrip Units One and Two are due to be decommissioned in the next couple of years, and yet Western Energy has made several requests to expanding the mine’s capacity.

“If you look at the numbers they provided to the federal government to justify the expansions, it looks like One and Two aren’t even closing,” she said. “They are anticipating mining exactly the same amount as they will be mining after the closure of One and Two. Perhaps they’re thinking about sending that coal overseas.”

Western Energy is a subsidiary of the Westmoreland Coal Company.

From the Westmoreland Coal Company’s website:

Westmoreland is committed to operating in a manner that meets or exceeds current environmental law. This involves the proper planning, permitting and monitoring of mining activities to assure compliance with applicable standards. The reclamation of mined lands is also an important objective of each mining complex.

Reclamation is an integral part of Westmoreland Coal Company’s mining operations.  Reclamation activities consist of filling the voids created during coal removal, replacing sub-soils and top-soils and then re-establishing the vegetative cover. At the conclusion of reclamation activities, the area disturbed by mining will look similar to what it did before mining begun. The mines are required to keep reclamation contemporaneous with mining.  Typically this results in approximately the same number of acres reclaimed annually as are disturbed.  The primary pre-mining land uses of Westmoreland’s mines are agricultural.’

The Company also addresses the impacts the mining operations have on wildlife habitat and on sites with cultural significance. The Rosebud Mine has altered its mining plan to preserve Native American petroglyphs on rock formations. Similar culturally significant sites have been excavated by trained archeologists. Historic buildings on mine property have been moved to preserve them. Westmoreland endeavors to operate as good environmental stewards, citizens and neighbors.

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