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HELENA — Protesters chanting "no coal!" gathered in front of the Capitol to put pressure on the state's top elected officials to oppose development of a half-billion-ton coal reserve near the Wyoming border.

The Montana Land Board, made up of the five statewide elected officials from the governor on down, are set to vote Monday on whether lease the Otter Creek coal tracts. All are Democrats.

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Coal royalties and other revenues from a new mine would boost the state's cash-strapped coffers by hundreds of millions of dollars in coming decades.

But environmentalists and some local landowners are opposing the development as an "abomination" that will release an estimated 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases when the coal is burned.

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