A permit for exploratory coal mining in eastern British Columbia, along the Flathead River, has riled Montantans who fear downstream contamination from mine activities. The Flathead flows south, bordering Glacier National Park, and empties into Flathead Lake in western Montana. (Montana is no stranger to toxic pollution from mines. The state is home to 14 federal superfund sites, most resulting from mining activities.)
The trans-border tension reminds us of an important, if obvious, lesson: environmental harm does not respect political borders. Which means, perhaps, that economic and environmental decision-making should be leavened by input from all who are affected—not just the folks who happen to see more of the benefits than the costs.