Flathead Coalition applauds no mines, coalbed methane still a concern

Flathead Coalition press release

Dear Friends of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park,

Great news today from British Columbia: The government has killed the proposed open-pit coal mines. But it is pushing forward with coalbed methane development in the Flathead headwaters of Glacier National Park. See press release below. A separate press release by our friends in Fernie, British Columbia, will be posted soon at: http://www.cccbm.org/

Now is an excellent time to take action. Please write a letter or e-mail to BC Premier Gordon Campbell. Thank him for today’s announcement on the Flathead coal mine proposals! But also insist on a comprehensive assessment of the likely economic, community and environmental impacts of various coalbed methane development scenarios, including a no-lease alternative, for the transboundary waters of the Flathead, Wigwam and Kootenai/Elk watersheds. Coalbed methane development requires a vast industrial complex of roads, compress stations, pipe lines and drilling pads, and it produces great quantities of wastewater that will settle in Flathead Lake. The North Fork Valley and the headwaters of Glacier National Park are not an appropriate place for this type of development.

Hon. Gordon Campbell
Premier of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings, Room 156
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4 – CANADA

Flathead Coalition Press Release

May 28, 2004
Contact: Dick Kuhl, 257-5793
Steve Thompson, 862-6722

Coalition cheers demise of Flathead coal mine plans
But still wary of planned coalbed methane drilling

A coalition of business interests, conservation and tribal groups today applauded the announcement by the Province of British Columbia that it is canceling two proposed open-pit coal mines just north of Glacier National Park and terminating the leases held by the Cline Mining Corporation.

“This is outstanding news,” said Paul Williams, Vice President of the Flathead Lakers, a member of the Flathead Coalition. “The BC government says that the North Fork of the Flathead is an inappropriate place for an open-pit coal mine, and we heartily agree. This is a big victory for protecting water quality and wildlife in the Flathead.”

Coalition President Dick Kuhl said that today’s announcement is a reflection of the hard work and persistence of a great diversity of individuals and elected officials in Montana and British Columbia. “Montana owes a particular debt of gratitude to Senators Max Baucus and Conrad Burns and Governor Judy Martz and for their strong leadership over the past several weeks. And we offer our congratulations to the City Council and Mayor of Fernie, British Columbia, who have been steadfast in their advocacy for conserving the wildlands and water quality that are the foundation of this region’s economy.”

Today’s announcement by BC Energy and Mines Minister Richard Neufeld also was cheered by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. “I appreciate the BC Ministry of Mines putting a stop to this proposed mine and listening to the people who were concerned about this proposal in both countries,” said Tribal Councilman James Steele, Jr., who represents the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Coalition. “These lands are an important part of our aboriginal territories. This area has remarkable spiritual, cultural and ecological values that cannot be replicated anywhere else.”

While applauding the cancellation of the coal mines, Flathead Coalition members expressed strong disappointment that the province is moving forward with proposed coalbed methane in the Flathead headwaters of Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake without doing an impact assessment.

“The Fernie City Council and the Flathead Basin Commission made a very reasonable request that the Province look before it leaps into coalbed methane development,” said Steve Thompson, Secretary of the Flathead Coalition and Glacier Program Manager of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It’s very unfortunate that the BC government has rejected that request. We know from experience elsewhere that coalbed methane development can harm water quality and wildlife. They need to make that assessment before granting private industry the right to drill these gas fields in the headwaters of Glacier National Park.”

Concluded Coalition President Dick Kuhl: “The death of these proposed coal mines is a huge victory, but we cannot divert our attention from this other major threat to the Flathead River basin. Coalbed methane development is every bit as serious a concern as open-pit coal mines. It’s one down and one to go.”

Steve Thompson, Glacier Program Manager
Northern Rockies Regional Office
National Parks Conservation Association
Ph: 406/862-6722
Fx: 406/863-2803
e-mail: sthompson@npca.org

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