Montana Coal Development Needs “Loser Pay”

Montana has more coal than any other state, according to the MT Dept. of Commerce – the kind of clean-burning, high BTU coal that is much sought-after by energy-hungry, fast-growing Asian nations.

This is great news for a state that has languished for years near the bottom of the list in GDP (49th), per capita income (43rd), and economic growth (bottom quartile).  Montana needs jobs and additional tax base.  Our nation needs cheap energy, not to mention a positive pop to our balance of trade.  New technology has mostly eliminated environmental concerns about coal use.  What could be wrong with mining and shipping this efficient natural resource to an eager world-wide market?

Well don’t worry, the usual suspects who are opposed to any kind of economic progress will think of something.

This morning’s headline screams “Environmentalists Threaten to Sue PSE Over Montana Coal Mine“, featuring our old friends at the Sierra Club.  “Coal Foes Warn of Northwest Rail Traffic Spike” wails another, courtesy of the anti-everything Western Organization of Resource Councils.  

The littany of complaints runs from “coal dust on my windows” to “coal trains make noise” to “residents from the ‘poor’ side of Billings will not be able to get to medical facilities on the other side of the tracks.”

It seems that any time there is an opportunity for economic progress, the radical left immediately starts throwing up roadblocks.  The formula seems to be “if it looks like it will improve standards of living, stop it.”  This is especially vexing in Montana, where we are practically an economic third-world state in spite of a tremendous wealth of natural resources.

One way to deal with the anti-progress groups (who ironically call themselves “progressives”) is to make them pay for their incessant legal attacks.  Our court system allows attorneys for these obstructionist groups to file frivolous suits which hold up projects for years – sometimes longer than investors or developers can wait.  A “loser pays” legal structure would prevent the stalling and obfuscation that takes food from the mouths of Montanans and damages our nation’s economic outlook.

“Loser Pays” is a common legal structure in other countries, but in the US only Alaska has a well-developed and tested application of the concept.  Other states are interested, though, and are beginning to implement the loser pay process in stages.

With all the nonsense Montanans have been through, and all that is at stake here, our state legislature should be taking a long, hard look at “Loser Pays”.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Down around the corner,
Half a mile from here
See them long trains run,
And you watch them disappear

Long Train Running – Doobie Brothers

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