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Environmentalists seek more Otter Creek hearings

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Environmental groups on Monday urged the state to hold hearings on the proposed Otter Creek mine in cities where the coal would pass through and residents would be affected by increased train traffic.

Public hearings are scheduled to this week in Broadus, Ashland and Lame Deer to establish the scope of the state's environmental review for the coal mine.

The 17 environmental groups sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation requesting additional hearings outside southeastern Montana. Officials from both agencies said Monday there would be no additional hearings.

"DEQ should ensure that all Montanans impacted by this mine have an opportunity to be heard. People who live near the proposed mine site certainly deserve that opportunity, as do those whose lives, livelihoods, health and safety will be at risk as a result of increased rail traffic," the letter reads.

One of the letter's authors, Alexis Bonogofsky of the National Wildlife Federation, said it's not just an issue for southeastern Montana because the coal will be heading west for export.

"Livingston, Missoula, Bozeman and Helena are communities that will see significant increases in rail traffic and accompanying impacts," she said in an email to The Associated Press.

DEQ Director Tracy Stone-Manning said no additional hearings will be scheduled, but she encouraged anybody interested in the coal mine to read Arch Coal Inc.'s application and comment on it by going to the agency's website.

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