Crow leader says climate plan would hurt coal-mining Montana tribe by shutting power plants

Energy Associated Press

The chairman of the coal-dependent Crow Nation wants a break from the Obama administration's climate proposal and says the pending rule violates the government's trust responsibility to the Montana tribe.

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Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote planned to announce his concerns with the climate plan during a Friday appearance with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

Up to two-thirds of the impoverished Crow tribe's revenue comes from a 15,000-acre Westmoreland Resources mine near Hardin that sends coal to Midwest power plants.

Fox and Old Coyote said in a joint letter that the administration's climate proposal could shutter those plants. Such a move would cause "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts to (the tribe's) future," the two wrote in the letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

EPA officials say they met with Crow leaders July 18 in Denver and have offered to consult with the tribe further.

Under the administration's proposal, states must reduce their carbon emissions 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

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Old Coyote and Fox said they want the Crow carved out of an Environmental Protection Agency rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an alternative, Fox and Old Coyote asked for measures to offset the rule's effects on the tribe.

They said the EPA had "utterly failed" to consider the rule's economic effects on the Crow's 13,000 enrolled members.

"EPA did not consult with the Crow Nation, did not consider the economic impacts on the Crow Nation and did not provide a less-intrusive alternative to the severe effect," Old Coyote and Fox wrote.

The EPA press office provided The Associated Press with two letters sent to Old Coyote in June and October from senior EPA official Peter Tsirigotis. He wrote that the EPA intended to pursue its climate plan "with sensitivity to the needs and culture of your tribe and with attention to the potential impact of our actions."

EPA officials said they also consulted with other tribes, including the Fort Mojave, the Hopi, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Tribe and several more.

Old Coyote and Fox dismissed the agency's efforts and described the correspondence from Tsirigotis as a form letter.