NTEC and Montana DEQ reach agreement, Spring Creek Mine to reopen

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.