MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA (AP)
Canadian regulators say potential coal and gas projects north of Glacier National Park face many hurdles, including regulatory review. Montana officials have criticized potential development of a coal mine and a coal-bed methane operation in southeastern British Columbia. On Tuesday, the Montana Legislature's Environmental Quality Council invited Canadian officials to provide their perspective at a meeting in Helena. British Columbia officials reiterated the projects have not begun clearing regulatory hurdles. Garry Alexander of the province's Environmental Assessment Office said the government will conduct a "comprehensive" evaluation. Other Canadian regulators, speaking by conference call, said Montana agencies and residents will have an opportunity to comment on plans as they move forward. Proposed projects often are modified during the permit process, the regulators said. Canada's Cline Mining Co. Has presented its coal mining proposal but has yet to request government permits. And British Petroleum is looking at possible coal-bed methane extraction in the area. Environmentalists say the projects could pollute the Flathead River and fragile areas around Glacier National Park, which abuts Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park. The two comprise Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 1995. The industrial development would have "irreversible" effects on the transboundary Flathead ecosystem, said Rich Moy, chairman of the Flathead Basin Commission, which monitors the well-being of the Flathead environment. Native trout are among the natural resources that could be harmed, he told the Environmental Quality Council. "This area is special," Moy said.