State of Montana deems Arch Coal’s Otter Creek air quality permit application incomplete; Northern Cheyenne Class I Airshed ignored
On December 5, 2014 the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent Arch Coal a deficiency notice on their air quality permit application for the proposed Otter Creek coal mine. Arch Coal submitted an air quality permit application to DEQ on November 6, 2014. I don't spend much time with air quality permits so I checked with some folks that do and apparently it is quite common for mining companies to receive deficiency notices on their air quality permit applications and to go back and forth with the permitting agency numerous times. Arch Coal has until February 3, 2015 to respond to DEQ's deficiency notice or else the application is considered withdrawn. What strikes me in both of these documents is that neither of them even mention the Northern Cheyenne Class I Airshed. A "Class I Airshed" is an area singled out by the federal Clean Air Act and the Clean Air Act of Montana for special air quality and visibility protection (See ARM 17.8.806(6)). The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, back in the late 70's, voluntarily designated their airshed as a Class I under the Clean Air Act. The Northern Cheyenne leaders of that era recognized the importance of clean air to their community and wanted to ensure future generations of Cheyennes would be protected. The Otter Creek mine cannot obtain an air quality permit without first demonstrating “that emissions of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide will not cause or contribute to concentrations which exceed the maximum allowable increases for a class I area.” 42 U.S.C. § 7475(d)(2)(C)(i); see id. § 7473 (allowable pollution increases for class I areas). Yet, in the entire 332-page air quality permit application, Arch Coal doesn't mention the Northern Cheyenne Tribe's Class I Airshed once. In fact, they don't ever mention the Tribe at all. I wish I could say I am surprised but I'm not. The way Arch Coal is treating the Tribe, its people and the cultural resources of the region is morally and ethically reprehensible. To download the deficiency notice please click on this link: Arch Coal Air Quality Deficiency Notice. To download the air quality permit application Arch Coal submitted on November 6, you can go to the DEQ's Otter Creek website and click on the air quality permit application link in the top right hand corner. If you are interested in what energy development off the reservation has meant for economic development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, please click here.