NPRC Loses Their Sugar Daddy on Coal

Aaron Flint posted on July 20, 2011 23:08 :: 1228 Views

The Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC), one of Montana’s most outspoken environmental groups, a group who gets their press releases printed in their local paper as if it was their own company newsletter, has just lost their major sugar daddy- billionaire candy mogul Forrest E. Mars, Jr.

The Great Falls Tribune’s John Adams has this:

Billionaire Forrest E. Mars, Jr. has reached an agreement with BNSF Railway Co. and coal giant Arch Coal to buy one-third of the Tongue River Railroad. The candy bar and pet food mogul said the purchase would prevent the construction of the proposed railway along major stretch of the Tongue River Valley in southeastern Montana.

In a July 18 letter to Ed Gulick, chairman of the conservation group Northern Plains Resource Council, Mars said he would no longer help fund ongoing legal challenges or future litigation related to the controversial 130-mile long railroad that would transport coal from Montana to Midwestern power plants and beyond.

Mars said the state would “greatly benefit” from new jobs and revenue created by the developing of the Ashland to Miles City-stretch of the railroad.

NPRC obviously wasn’t pleased.  They sent out this via press release Wednesday afternoon:

“This doesn’t change anything for us – whether it’s Arch Coal, BNSF or the Mars empire – they are just big, heartless corporations and our fight remains the same.”

Mars states in a letter to Northern Plains that the railroad will now be from Miles City south to Otter Creek and not all the way to the Wyoming border. This change has come about because the Otter Creek coal is exclusively to be exported to Asia and no longer for the long-touted Midwest markets as was the original justification for the Tongue River Railroad. Ranchers on the upper end of the valley, according to Mars, will no longer be impacted, but from Ashland to Miles City they will. 

The vitriolic response from NPRC is understandable.  They just lost a major sugar daddy in Mars.  Plus, the fact that the line won’t connect to Wyoming took away one of their major arguments for Montanans opposing the railroad.  That is, the argument that building another rail line connecting Wyoming into Montana would only open Montana’s market up to Wyoming coal.  Losing a major benefactor, and losing the argument, is a bad scenario all around for an organization that thrives on simply opposing everything.    

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