| This Dennison report on the Otter Creek coal tracts likely augurs how political wrangling will shape itself in the coming months and (hopefully) years:
The head of the company that owns more than half the coal in southeastern Montana's Otter Creek Valley said this week that he'll be surprised if anyone bids on state-owned coal there, because the Land Board probably set the minimum price too high.
Chuck Kerr, president of Great Northern Properties in Houston, also told the Gazette State Bureau that the state is asking a lot by requiring potential coal developers to pay an entire "bonus bid" up front.
"I think that's going to be a stretch," he said. "I think 25 cents (per ton) is too high. But we could be surprised."
Get it? Republicans will push against the Land Board, claiming they set the price too high on purpose to prevent the coal from being leased. After all, why not? They have a tendency to treat public land as corporate America's backyard, why not try to pressure the Land Board to essentially give away the state's coal tracts? It's good for teh childs! Well, not so much.
But then that's assuming the fuss and bother over Otter Creek coal isn't just Kabuki theater for the masses. Again, see George Ochenski's short history of the coal tracts: there are probably too many obstacles in the way of coal development in Otter Creek. Here's what he said then:
Unfortunately, it's a fool's game initiated by Republicans but now being perpetuated by Democrats, who hold every seat on the state's Land Board. Ironically, as the nations of the world meet in Copenhagen to wrestle with the disastrous impacts of climate change, Montana's top elected officials continue to greenwash the mining and burning of the most polluting fuel on the planet.
To get back to the physics of politics, it's clearly time for the Democrats on the Land Board to pull the plug on Otter Creek, write off our losses, bring this bad idea to a dead stop, and move on to the change we were promised and so desperately need.
But somehow the coal tracts have come to represent commitment to Montana's rural educational system. If, god forbid, you oppose development in Otter Creek, you hate children in Eastern Montana. It's as simple as that. And as an additional bonus for the Krayton Kernses of the world, by fighting for development in Otter Creek, you can stick it to those know-it-all scientists and their global warming plots to take over the world. You don't even have to develop the coal, all you need to do is make skittish Democrats vote for coal, too, and that's enough.