BILLINGS, (AP) - State officials say the Montana Land Board will vote Monday on whether to put up for lease a half-billion ton coal reserve near the Wyoming border - a
politically charged decision for Governor Brian Schweitzer and the four other Democrats who make up the panel.
Mining the state-owned reserve could lead to the release of vast quantities of greenhouse gases when the coal is burned, but royalties could boost the state's cash-strapped coffers.
A Land Board vote to proceed would spark a backlash from
environmentalists who supported the Democrats in last year's
election. A vote against would leave the administration open to charges of economic obstructionism.
The board has grappled with the issue for years. Officials including Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, who sought a one-month delay in November, say the time for a vote has come. She would not predict the outcome.