What is it about the words “Environmental Protection” that starts republicans foaming at the mouth? Yet the words “Homeland Security” have them falling thankfully to their knees and singing hosannas. It seems to me that the two phrases are essentially synonymous. How stupid is it to protect your homeland from external threats while at the same time destroying the air, water, wildlife, fisheries and cultural resources?
Two brainless bills go up for their third reading in the Montana Senate today. SB440 by Kelly Gebhardt (R) from Roundup would force the state to issue air quality permits without doing any environmental analysis. SB481 by Greg Barkus (R) from Kalispell would exempt any projects funded under the economic stimulus bill from environmental review. Both bills narrowly passed their second reading in the republican-heavy senate, but are likely to advance.
No matter what the republicans, developers and corporations tell you, there really is a problem with approving projects without first looking at their consequences. Many things don’t even get considered in the permitting process. Things like: impacts to cultural and historical resources, impacts on local services (like sewer and water), impacts on the neighbors, waste disposal and many more. The point being, the only place that the real effect of a project on you and me is addressed is in the MEPA process. That is also the only place where citizens can effectively have a voice in the process. Bypassing the MEPA mechanism in effect locks those pesky citizens out of the review process.
jhwygirl has a thoughtful review of these idiotic bills over at 4 & 20 Blackbirds.
SB440 is just a blatant attempt by business to bypass a lawful review of impacts. SB481 would do something similar for projects funded by the stimulus act. Stimulus projects are, in many cases, proposals that have not been addressed in the past because they are too expensive or because there are real environmental concerns that state and local governments don’t really want to address. These bills would be a convenient way to make an end run around potential problems, like you and me.
Write Senator Gebhardt email@example.com and Senator Barkus firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that we are happy with doing the public business just the way it is done now. We don’t have a problem with the public being involved in protecting our own resources and these bills should be scrapped.
Assuming that the bills do progress out of the Senate, make sure that you phone, write or email your representative and oppose the bills in the 50/50 House. You can call 406-444-4800 to leave a message for a legislator or committee or you can use the Legislature Online Contact Form.