Dear Missoula City Council:
As you consider the resolution asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand their environmental impact statement for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals to include Missoula, we ask that you take a moment to consider the impacts your action may have on the Crow Tribe.
Opportunities for job creation and investment in Montana’s Indian Country are frustratingly scarce. Today, the Crow Tribe has a rare window of opportunity before it, and we are doing everything in our power to take advantage of it before that window closes.
Our Crow Land sits on 9 billion tons of coal. We’ve recently received concurrence to lease 1.4 billion tons of that coal for production, which will result in substantial long-term revenues for the Crow Tribe. If we succeed in developing a new mine, hundreds of new jobs will be created. With unemployment at nearly 50 percent on our reservation, those jobs are sorely needed. For the Crow people, there are no jobs that compare to a coal job – the wages and benefits exceed anything else that is available. All of this tribal revenue and employment income will be immediately circulated and multiplied within the economy of southeastern Montana.
But this opportunity depends, in part, on the construction of new export facilities on the West Coast. Asking the Army Corps to expand the EIS will certainly delay, and could possibly prevent, the construction of the Millennium port.
Requesting that the scope of this EIS look at environmental impacts in Montana is an unprecedented move and outside the bounds of what most of us think should be included in an environmental review for a coastal port.
For our plans to create jobs and bring new investment to succeed, we must do all we can to see that the construction of new coal export facilities is not impeded unreasonably. I would respectfully request that you at least remain neutral on this issue and not encourage an EIS process that would obstruct important economic opportunities for the Crow Tribe and the state of Montana.
I cannot emphasize enough the tremendous opportunity that new coal development poses for the Crow Nation. I am committed to seeing this through, and I hope you can be there beside us.
Darrin Old Coyote is chairman of the Crow Tribe.