Environmental groups say they’re suing over pollution at Colstrip coal mine

Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-05 17:11:37-04

COLSTRIP- Three conservation groups have given notice of their intent to sue over ongoing water-pollution problems at the Rosebud coal mine in southeastern Montana.

The Rosebud Mine is owned by Denver-based Westmoreland Coal Co. and feeds the Colstrip power plants.

The Montana Environmental Information Center, The Sierra Club and Wild Earth Guardians say the Rosebud Mine continues to violate the federal Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Reclamation Act.

In a news release, the groups said they sent notice to the U.S. Department of Interior, Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Westmoreland of their intent to sue.

The three groups allege these violations have resulted in serious environmental harm to the East Fork of Armells Creek, including damage to the creek’s hydrologic health, by dewatering a portion of the waterway, and discharging excessive amounts of iron.

The groups say this violate the mine’s federal Clean Water permit.

“They are polluting the streams out there above the safe water quality standards, and have been doing so for awhile. The state has really turned a blind eye to that and has helped them ignore the problems that are out there. So, if something happens with that mine, we want to make sure that they are the ones to clean it up, not the taxpayers of Montana,” said Anne Hedges, director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

As the environmental groups head to court, all eyes are focused on Westmoreland Coal and it’s failing financial health.

Hedges said the company’s recent filings with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission indicate a potential bankruptcy may be in the works for the coal giant – perhaps as soon as later this week or early next week.

On Sept. 28, Westmoreland said in a federal filing that lenders had agreed to another extension of a loan payment, estimated in the millions. It’s one of several extensions the struggling company has received this year, and the new payment deadline is Friday.

Hedges said the three environmental groups are taking action now to preserve their actions against the company, giving a potential bankruptcy scenario.

Reporting by Jay Kohn for MTN News