Energy

‘It’s A Nightmare’: American Indians Blast Western States For Waging A War On Coal

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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Chris White Tech Reporter

Coastal states are using environmental regulations to destroy American Indians’ ability to produce coal, gas and forms of energy required to lift communities up and out of poverty, according to one prominent American Indian tribe.

A handful of western states — led by Washington — are using EPA regulations to hamstring coal production and transportation, CJ Stewart, a Crow Tribal member and co-founder of the National Tribe Energy Association, told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Thursday. Stewart’s tribe is dependent on coal production for its survival.

“Tribal economies face many obstacles to success, and currently the economy of the Crow Tribe is facing a critical crisis,” Stewart told Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso and others on the panel. “While we are blessed with untold mineral wealth in oil, coal, and gas on the Crow reservation, regulatory roadblocks and political crisis force us to languish in poverty.”

“The tribe currently has an unemployment rate of 70 percent,” he added. “Imagine having a trillion dollars in mineral wealth under your feet and yet your people are starving and destitute before you. It’s a cruel nightmare.” (RELATED: Washington Governor Prepares A Carbon Tax Proposal Voters Oppose In 2016)

The Crow Tribe is heavily dependent on energy from coal and gas for its economic well-being. It has about 13,000 members and is the biggest employer on the reservation, which spans three states — Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, Barrasso’s state. Outside of coal revenues, the tribe relies on funding from states and the federal government to employ about 900 people.

Stewart blamed the Section 401 of the EPA’s Clean Water Act, which was intended to provide states with a way to apply key water quality protections to federally permitted activities. The U.S. holds more of the world’s coal reserves than any other country, Stewart told the panel, adding that the coal “mined by the Crow Nation is preferred by high efficiency, low emission power plants” that are in operation and being built around the world.

Washington has come under intense scrutiny in recent months over Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision in January to deny coal mining company Lighthouse Resources a permit to build an export terminal to ship western coal to Asia. Lighthouse sued Inslee and the State’s Department of Ecology for allegedly violating the Constitution’s commerce clause in denying the permit for what would be America’s largest coal export terminal.

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