Connecting the Dots: Dirty Money and Politics in Montana

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Saturday, as part of the international Connect the Dots day of action organized by 350.org, activists in Missoula, MT highlighted the connection between dirty money, government, and climate change.  At the Missoula Farmers Market, organizers from the Blue Skies Campaign, Occupy Missoula, and other local groups enacted a creative street theater routine to draw attention to the Montana Land Board’s support for Arch Coal at the expense of ordinary people and the climate.

In 2010, the Montana Land Board voted 3-2 to lease coal tracts in the Otter Creek area to Arch Coal.  Developing Otter Creek for coal mining would set off one of the largest carbon bombs in the world, facilitating construction of the Tongue River Railroad, and the opening of vast additional tracts of land to mining.  With a quarter of US coal reserves sitting under Montana soil, this is truly one of the most important fights on the planet.

Help diffuse this carbon bomb: join the Coal Export Action this summer!

Fortunately, Land Board members – all of whom are statewide elected officials – still can stop mining at Otter Creek.  It will take massive public pressure to make them do so, though.  The ones who can really diffuse this bomb are the Montana people.

Thus the inspiration for Saturday’s street theater, which showed what it will take to keep Montana’s largest coal reserves underground.  During a tug-of-war match between the people of Montana and pro-coal members of the Land Board, climate activists discovered pro-coal politicians couldn’t be budged as long as they remain tied to the coal industry by dirty money.

In the theater skit, the people of Montana eventually solved the dilemma by cutting a rope tying Land Board members to an immovable rock representing Arch Coal (meanwhile, an Arch Coal lobbyist offered Governor Brian Schweitzer and other Land Board members coal).  And though this creative action was all in good fun, the message is deadly serious: we really do need to cut the link between state politics and giant energy companies.

Later this year, we have a chance to do just this at the Coal Export Action, a weeklong sit-in at the Montana Capitol.  People from communities throughout the region affected by mining, transportation, and export of Montana coal will peacefully risk arrest to convey the moral seriousness of our demand.  Together, we will steer Montana and the Northwest toward a prosperous, clean energy future – and keep Montana’s coal reserves safely in the ground.

Want to stop the real Montana Land Board from igniting this carbon bomb?  Sign up to join or help organize the Coal Export Action here!


About Nick


Nick is a freelance writer, climate activist, and a graduate student at the University of Montana. He got his start in activism by helping to establish a new campus recycling system at Portland Community College; since then he has organized to stop fossil fuel projects and open up space for clean energy in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Nick is currently working with activists throughout the Greater Northwest to protect Northwest communities from coal export projects. When not in school or organizing for a clean energy future, he can be found hiking in the natural areas around Missoula, bird watching, or writing a novel.

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