March 23, 2005 (Billings Gazette)
Tim Gregori, general manager of SME told more than 600 members at the Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative annual meeting in Billings that...

"The best coal to fuel the plant would be from the Decker and Spring Creek mines on the Montana/Wyoming state line, Gregori said. That most likely means transporting coal by rail.

One co-op member told Gregori that Burlington Northern Santa Fe would be a silent partner in the project like "a horse and a hare" and could overcharge to the point of ruining it.

Gregori said they've anticipated that problem and if the railroad overcharges, SME could build its own coal mine near Great Falls and use an independent rail line."

Other Discussion Regarding Coal Mining in the Great Falls Area:

June 20, 2005 Energy and Telecom committee minutes, Montana legislature

REP Olson asked if any test burns have been done on the coal reserves in the Great Falls area. Mr. Gregori said the coal has a high sulphur rate and several other problems but a test burn has not been ruled out.

October 10, 2006 SME response to CCE pages 16-17

Question: “Shouldn’t the citizens living near the known fields of Stockett, Sand Coulee, and
Tracy be alerted to the possibility of open pit coal mining before rather than after the fact?”

Answer: The coal located in this area is a high grade sub bituminous or low grade bituminous coal. This coal was mined extensively prior to the 1940’s utilizing “underground” mining techniques – the most expensive way to mine coal.Southern Montana Electric G&T conducted a very high level review of these reserves as a potential fuel supply and concluded that the coal reserves in the Great Falls area are not currently a viable fuel supply option. There are no active mines in the area and there have been extensive reclamation efforts made to repair the damage left behind from earlier mining efforts. It is not certain whether the reserves would ever be appropriate for use at HGS. Prior to engaging in any significant effort to develop this reserve Southern Montana Electric G&T would have to determine if the reserves represented a viable alternative. This evaluation would include opening dialogue with affected parties and the completion of a requisite EIS. Southern Montana Electric G&T believes the existing coal mines in southeastern Montana offer a reliable, long term and affordable source of fuel for HGS

February 2007 Beck study pages 15-16

Alternatively, building a new bituminous underground coal mine dedicated to supplying the Project has been considered. This potential source was the focus of two previous studies undertaken by Boyd for Stanley. Our understanding is that SME and Stanley have limited the use of the Boyd reports to conclude or assume that a dedicated mine in the Great Falls area is likely to be a more costly alternative to existing mines in both Montana and Wyoming. However, in the event of significant market price increases in other Montana and Wyoming based coal sources, the market price increases in other Montana and Wyoming based coal sources, the potential for developing such a mine could have value because it represents a potential alternative that could cap the total delivered cost of fuel to the Project.


GeeGuy said...

I take it that is "Frosty the Coal Man?"

WolfPack said...

If it pencils out, a coal mine in the Stockett/Sand Coulee area would be great. I'm not exactly sure when it became a bad thing to be the treasure state. There are a lot of people who would like to have a job at this proposed mining site; many of them live in that area. Rual MT is drying up with it’s businesses and schools closing. I think a lot of people who are disconnected from eking a living are a little too quick jumping on the anti natural resource band wagon. Civilization is not a zero impact endeavor. If you already have a nice home and health insurance for your kids it’s easy to be sanctimonious and pull the rug out from under those who don’t.

free thought said...

I agree with Wolfpack that we cannot rule out mining for its own sake. Even so, we have pretty well decided, as a civilization, that certain precautions must now be taken--such as using the material (in this case, low grade coal) carefully (that is, with acceptable release of toxins when it is burned) and reclamation after the fact.

With that in mind, Hawkeye seems to be right. The local coal mine would have to produce coal so cheaply that we could afford to open the mine, build a rail spur (recall that 4.5 miles cost $4 million for the malt plant), and then modify the coal plant (which is already escalating, and may not pass muster even with cleaner coal). All this just to offset price gouging. Does not seem likely to me.

Hawkeye said...

Eloquent statements by both wolfpack and free thought. I was really just trying to illuminate the fact that however unlikely, a nearby coal mine is the backup plan for SME should rail negotiations fail. I probably just revealed my own ignorance (and elitism apparently) in doing so. I thought many people were unaware of the possibility and it is still a pertinent issue/threat (for me) until they sign contracts with BNSF. When a general manager or CEO makes these comments publicly, particularly at a company meeting, I think we can assume he is being forthright about their intentions. Did the Tribune cover this at the time? I may have missed it.

I think that what one person considers elitist another considers common sense. Follow me now. I was opposed to the sign code (seems too intrusive) but would be against McDonalds sticking two big golden arches above the horizon on the Highwood Mts. I feel that the ban against smoking in a restaurant is unnecessary (just don’t go there) but a ban on smoking in a daycare seems reasonable. I grew up in a very rural area and will always have sensitivities toward folks who choose to live there. Here's a piece of advice from someone who grew up rural (or Rual, either way is fine). "Rural" Montana is a very diverse group of people. Some are thriving, some aren't, some eking out a living some not. Some would say you can stick that coal mine in Fox Farm if you want it and some would like it their own backyard. I consider it common sense, not elitism, that I think that the people of GF and surrounding communities would be better off long-term without this coal mine and coal plant.
Anyone else agree? Disagree?

GeeGuy said...

I think you just proved that you are an elitist bastard by your willingness to look down your snoot at Wolfpack's spelling.

Don't spill your brie.

Hawkeye said...

Thanks for all the comments. Guess I better change my name to Winchester.

WolfPack said...

Sorry for the missing "r". As you can see from the time stamps, I posted before going to work (like us uneducated working stiffs must) so I was in a hurry. I noticed some mid-day posts from some of you. Are you all county court house employees? Can I get a job there?

Aren’t the proposed mines already in place but closed? I think they were just talking about reopening them. The adjoining residents should have some idea this was a possibility when they moved there. Montana is very large by most standards, so I’m guessing that few people will have any justification for aesthetic outrage over a mine here or a power plant there. I am particularly amused by the L & C portage arguments that L & C would turn over in their graves if they knew what we were contemplating. If I were them my first thought when approaching the falls would have been “Nice view. Oh s**t we’ve got to carry the boats”.