Is There a Way Out?
Is tribal sovereignty a carte blanche to do whatever you want? The Crow Tribe's coal reserves are estimated at around 9 billion tons of coal. If all the Crow coal came onto the market and was sold and burned, according to a paper by Avery Old Coyote, it could produce an equivalent of 44.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.
That's a lot of carbon during a time of climate challenge.
Then there are the coal-fired power plants. They employ another 380 people, some of them Crow, and generating some 2,094 mw of electricity. The plants are the second-largest coal-generating facilities west of the Mississippi. PSE's coal plant is the dirtiest coal-burning power plant in the Western states, and the eighth dirtiest nationwide. The amount of carbon pollution that spews from Colstrip's smokestacks is almost equal to two eruptions at Mt. St. Helen's every year.
Coal is dirty. That's just the way it is. Coal plant operators are planning to retire 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. A record number of generators were shut down in 2012. Massive energy development in PRB contributes more than 14 percent of the total U.S. carbon pollution, and the Powder River Basin is some of the largest reserves in the world. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the world emits 32.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. The Crow Tribe will effectively contribute more than a year and a half of the entire world's production of carbon dioxide.
There, is, unfortunately, no bubble over China, so all that carbon will end up in the atmosphere.
The Crow Nation chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, says coal was a gift to his community that goes back to the tribe's creation story. "Coal is life," he says. "It feeds families and pays the bills. [We] will continue to work with everyone and respect tribal treaty rights, sacred sights, and local concerns. However, I strongly feel that non-governmental organizations cannot and should not tell me to keep Crow coal in the ground. I was elected to provide basic services and jobs to my citizens and I will steadfastly and responsibly pursue Crow coal development to achieve my vision for the Crow people."
In 2009, 1,133 people were employed by the coal industry in Montana. U.S. coal sales have been on the decline in recent years, and plans to export coal to Asia will prop up this industry a while longer. By contrast, Montana had 2,155 "green" jobs in 2007 -- nearly twice as many as in the coal industry. Montana ranks fifth "in the nation for wind-energy potential. Even China has been dramatically increasing its use of renewables and recently called for the closing of thousands of small coal mines by 2015. Perhaps most telling, Goldman Sachs recently stated that investment in coal infrastructure is "a risky bet and could create stranded assets."
The Answer May Be Blowing in the Wind
The Crow nation has possibly 15,000-megawatts of wind-power potential, or six times as much power as is presently being generated by Colstrip. Michaelynn Hawk and Peregoy have an idea: a wind project owned by Crow Tribal members that could help diversify Crow income. Michaelynn says "the price of coal has gone down. It's not going to sustain us. We need to look as landowners at other economic development to sustain us as a tribe. Coal development was way before I was born. From the time I can remember, we got per capita from the mining of coal. Now that I'm older, and getting into my elder age, I feel that we need to start gearing towards green energy."
Imagine there were buffalo, wind turbines, and revenue from the Yellowtail Dam to feed the growing Crow community. What if the Crow replaced some of that 500 megawatts of Colstrip Power, with some of the 15,000 possible megawatts of power from wind energy? And then there is the dam on the Big Horn River. "We have the opportunity right now to take back the Yellowtail Dam," Peragoy says. "Relicensing and lease negotiations will come up in two years for the Crow Tribe, and that represents a potentially significant source of income -- $600 million. That's for 20 years, $30 million a year."
That would be better than dirty coal money for the Crow, for the Lummi, for all of us.By: Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth Read more: http://www.honorearth.org/crow_lummi_dirty_coal_clean_fishing