Four really nasty bills are advancing in the legislature aimed at taking away the right of the public to file an appeal when their water, land or air is threatened. Senator Keith Bales (R) and Representative Llew Jones (R) don’t think you should be upset if energy companies want to ruin your state. “Streamlining the Permit Process” has been an ongoing mantra for republican legislators for several sessions. By “Streamlining” you can read “taking the public out of the permitting process”. Montana has the fastest air permitting process in the nation. In the last 3 years there have been 1,210 air pollution permits issued. Six have been appealed. Three by the applicant and three by the public. Yet conservatives, who want to see more extractive resource use think that 0.02% is too damn many “endless appeals”.
This latest round can be traced back to the failed Highwood Generating Station near Great Falls. Highwood failed for many reasons, none of which was public appeal of the permit. Funding for coal-fired plants has dried up across the nation due to the economic situation, increasing building costs and the forthcoming regulation of carbon emissions by the feds made the project too risky. Southern Montana Electric Generation made an economic decision. They were not responding to public pressure.
There was an excellent opinion piece in the Tribune this morning by my man Tom Power. He outlined how Highwood could not find funding, projected costs had doubled and the coop members were rebelling against rate increases for the un-needed project.
Just when Montana should be leading the nation in clean, renewable power, we are still having these silly arguments about which energy source should be allowed to be the dirtiest. Sorry, but there ain’t no such thing as “Clean Coal” and likely never will be. It’s filthy and disgusting. We already have five coal plants in the state with six more proposed. Yet, we export 1/2 of all the produced power. The cheap power goes to someone else, profits go to out-of-state corporations and we get to suffer the environmental consequences and carry the economic burdens of the cleanup.
The current bills would do things like: Reduce the time period in which to file an appeal from 30 to 15 days. Make citizens pay a bond to file an appeal (Pay to Play). All in all, they want to make sure that Montana citizens don’t have a voice in decisions that will affect our environment for generations in the name of “Balancing the Permit Process”. C’mon guys, I know we look stupid, but we’ve stopped this nonsense before and we will again. Even if the bills pass, they likely violate the state constitution and federal law. They will go directly to court from the legislature if they pass.
Stop HB 529, HB483, HB566 and SB387. Write, phone or email your legislators and let them know that the citizens of Montana demand to have a voice in what is being done to our environment.