HELENA – Today, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality reached a short-term agreement with the Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) that ensures compliance with the State’s mining and environmental laws, and allows coal production to resume at the Spring Creek Mine in Big Horn County, Montana.
On Thursday, NTEC assumed ownership of the coal mine from the bankrupt Cloud Peak Energy Inc. without having first received final acceptance by DEQ for day-to-day operations of the mine. This led to NTEC closing the mine Thursday morning. The issue complicating DEQ’s ability to accept NTEC, a company created by the Navajo Nation, is related to NTEC’s claim of tribal sovereign immunity. Without a limited waiver of that sovereign immunity, DEQ or the public may not be able to enforce state laws against NTEC.
“While better planning and coordination by NTEC could have prevented costly and avoidable impacts to workers, I am very pleased we were able to reach this short-term agreement that will allow miners to get back to work at the mine while ensuring protection of Montana’s environment,” said DEQ director Shaun McGrath. “MT DEQ looks forward to building a productive relationship with NTEC that allows for the continued responsible operation of the Spring Creek Mine.”
“NTEC appreciates the commitment and effort by Montana to keep Spring Creek miners working. We are thankful that we were able to reach a mutually agreeable position and look forward to continuing to build on a strong partnership with the state of Montana,” said Clark Moseley, Chief Executive Officer at NTEC.
Agreement on the limited waiver was the only issue standing in the way of DEQ’s ability to accept NTEC as a contractor responsible for day-to-day operations at the mine. With the signed waiver in place, DEQ issued its acceptance of NTEC as a contract miner under state laws.
Rebecca Harbage, Public Policy Director
Montana Department of Environmental Quality