BILLINGS, Mont. -

Eastern Montana residents will weigh in this week on a proposed 83-mile coal railroad with the potential to usher in a dramatic expansion of mining in the state.
    
The Surface Transportation Board is hosting a series of public meetings beginning Monday in Lame Deer for its environmental review of the proposed Tongue River Railroad.
    
The $490 million line would haul up to 20 million tons of fuel annually - equal to about half the state's current coal production.
    
Backers say that would boost the Montana economy and bring thousands of construction and mining jobs.
    
But opponents say the line will industrialize rural areas, and burning the coal could worsen climate change.
    
The long-stalled railroad was bought last year by BNSF Railway, Arch Coal and billionaire Forrest Mars, Jr.