Those who have lived off the surface resources in the area "fret over what will become of their livelihoods in the shadow of the mines," Hansen reports. "The area's streams are important to them for watering their cattle, and they use the shallow underground aquifers to irrigate their hay. The ranchers have a problem, in particular, with how much water is being used by the coal operations, and the quality of water that’s left over."
And there's another problem, or two. One, ranchers don't trust the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which they think has a less-than-perfect record for protection of their assets. And listen to rancher Clint McRae, whose family has raised cattle for 130 years on nearby land: “I am expected to sacrifice our operation so a for-profit company can take my land to haul coal to China. I'll fight that tooth-and-nail." The ranchers have lawyered up. The public comment period on the proposed mine expansion ends Monday, Nov. 5. (Read more)