Montana's Land Board faced down stiff opposition Monday and voted in favor of leasing vast coal tracts in the eastern part of the state.
The state's top elected officials, all Democrats, bucked a key constituency by making a vote that could lead to more coal development. Environmentalists rallied against the plan.
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.
Environmentalists and some local landowners oppose the development as an "abomination" for the amounts of greenhouse gases that will come when the coal is burned.