Montana Environmental Information Center

Clean and healthful. It's your right, our mission.

5 Quick Actions to Help Protect the Environment

We know your time is valuable, but we need your help to support clean energy, clean water, and clean air (as well as your pocketbooks).

We have made another quick and easy list of five high-impact actions you can take this week that will help fight for our right to a clean and healthful environment. Pick one or do all five. However you decide to help is much appreciated.

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Support Clean Energy in the Montana House

Contact the House Energy Committee

Dear Representative,

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UPDATE: The Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act, HB 504, was heard in the House energy committee on Wednesday, February 22nd. The committee will vote on Friday, February 24th.

Please contact the committee TODAY using the tool on the right – the tool sends a message to the committee – or click here to see all House energy committee members contact info.

Across Montana, people from all walks of life are saying solar is the Montana Way. Montanans are stepping forward and asking for solutions that will grow jobs, protect our rivers and lands, and create more energy options that reduce our reliance on giant corporate monopolies.

But the Legislature is stalling, refusing to remove antiquated regulations that limit Montana’s energy freedom and block job growth in clean energy. In spite of rising consumer demand and better technology, some legislators are throwing up more obstacles to solar jobs and energy freedom. Others are kicking the can down the road. The Legislature hasn’t even been able to pass the most basic of solar progress bills this session, because the state’s largest utility doesn’t want to compete with Montana homeowners and businesses producing their solar energy. Our legislators need to listen to the people they represent rather than NorthWestern Energy. Montanans are tired of the gridlock, the barriers, and the paralysis by analysis.

Take action today to support the Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act! This bill removes barriers to solar energy growth, including:

  • Raising the cap on a net metered system to 1 megawatt, giving homeowners, farmers and businesses the freedom to purchase a solar system that meets their needs;
  • Giving more Montanans access to affordable solar energy through community solar projects that allow those who rent or live in a home not suitable for a solar array to have the choice to invest in a local solar project and receive credits that reduce their energy bill;
  • Giving farmers and ranchers the freedom to choose a solar system that meets all their energy needs by allowing for net-metering credits to be applied across multiple meters;
  • Helping Montanans struggling to pay their utility bills by requiring NorthWestern Energy to apply left over net metering credits to low-income bill assistance.

Please use the tool on this page to contact the members of the House Energy committee. The message sent reads as follows:

Dear Representative,

I am contacting you to request that you vote in favor of HB 504.

Solar is the Montana way and Montanans deserve the freedom to make their own energy choices. By removing obstacles that restrict energy choices, we’ll create good jobs and protect our way of life while powering our homes and businesses with affordable, homegrown solar energy. The Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act (HB 504) will enable Montanans to make their own energy choices, create good jobs and protect our way of life while powering our homes and businesses with affordable, homegrown solar energy. Solar is the Montana way.

The passage of this bill would help Montanans increase their energy independence while creating jobs and saving customers money.

Thank you for your consideration.d

Would you like more updates like these? Sign up for MEIC’s Action Alert Network!

Support Clean Energy in the Montana Senate

Contact the Senate Energy Committee

This petition is now closed.

End date: Feb 01, 2017

Signatures collected: 142

142 signatures

Currently, there are three BAD clean energy bills in the Senate energy committee that you can help stop: two bad bills on net metering and one bad bill that would eliminate Community Renewable Energy Projects.

Net Metering

Net metering is a policy that allows individuals and businesses that install a wind, solar, or micro-hydro system on their own property to receive credit on their energy bill for any extra energy produced that goes onto the grid. Renewable energy system owners only get this credit when their system puts this extra energy onto the grid – energy that NorthWestern Energy turns around and sells to others on the grid.

When the Republican controlled legislature first passed net metering in 1999, it found that “it is in the public interest to promote net metering because it encourages private investment in renewable energy resources, stimulates Montana’s economic growth, and enhances the continued diversification of the energy resources used in Montana.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Community Renewable Energy Projects

Montana’s Renewable Energy Standard includes a provision supporting Community Renewable Energy Projects (CREPs). These are projects that must be majority owned by Montana individuals or businesses and less than 25 Megawatts in size. This CREPs provision is designed to spur local jobs and economic development while also putting clean energy onto the grid.

Only investor owned utilities are required to comply with this part of the law. Montana Dakota Utilities is in compliance but NorthWestern Energy is not. Rather than comply with the law, NorthWestern instead wants to just remove the CREPs requirement.

Take action today to support clean energy in Montana! Please use the tool on this page to contact the members of the Senate Energy committee. The message sent reads as follows:

Dear Senator,

I am contacting you to request that you vote against Senate Bills 1, 7, and 32.

SB 1 and 7 would harm solar energy jobs and economic development in Montana by discriminating against net metered customers in part by placing unnecessary and costly burdens on them. When the legislature created net metering in 1999 it found that net metering “encourages private investment in renewable energy resources, stimulates Montana’s economic growth, and enhances the continued diversification of the energy resources used in Montana.” This remains true today and we should not be harming this growing sector of our economy.

SB 32 would also hurt jobs in Montana by repealing the Community Renewable Energy Projects (CREPs) provision of the Renewable Energy Standard. Community renewable energy projects are majority locally owned projects that put the clean energy they produce on the grid right here in Montana. Montana Dakota Utilities is in compliance with CREPs – only NorthWestern Energy is not. Passage of this bill would mean the lost of these jobs and clean energy for Montana.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tell Montana Senators to Say NO to Anti-EPA Chief!

Yesterday President-Elect Trump nominated a climate skeptic, anti-public health, anti-environmental protection, anti-federal backstop, oil industry hack and nationwide anti-Environmental Protection Agency ring leader to head the very agency he has worked to destroy. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is dangerous for our future. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not fear-based. That’s a fact.

We know the next four years will be difficult, and like you, we’ve been asking ourselves what can we do? We have an idea for you.

Pruitt wants to hand environmental and public health protections back to the states instead of guaranteeing that every person in this country is assured fundamental protections from harmful air and water pollution. States like Montana have a long history of state screw-ups and political interference when it comes to environmental protection and public health (think Libby, Zortman/Landusky, the Berkley pit, Colstrip’s coal-ash ponds, etc.). We need federal backstops when state’s cave to industry pressure or don’t have the resources to do their jobs.

Pruitt is a dangerous pick.

But he’s not the head of the EPA just yet. He needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. We are asking you to take two quick actions:

  1. Call Senator Jon Tester. Thank him for his continued efforts to solve the climate crisis and support clean energy. Ask him to reject Scott Pruitt and demand Trump appoint someone who believes in EPA’s mission to protect the health of all people of the United States, not just those living in states that are willing to buck pressure from polluters. Call his office 202-224-2644.
  1. Call Senator Steve Daines. Tell him his letter to Trump this week was WAY out of line. The vast majority of Montanans want action on climate change. They want clean air and clean water and they don’t want to give away or waste natural resources such as coal or natural gas respectively. Clean energy is good for the economy and public health. The current climate crisis is not caused by sun spots, as he’s stated. Ask him to reject Pruitt. Call his office at 202-224-2651.

HELP Stop the Last West Coast Coal Terminal

Contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This petition is now closed.

End date: Nov 30, 2016

Signatures collected: 446

446 signatures

Let’s get this over the finish line. Exporting coal from Montana was a bad idea from day one. Increased coal mining and export would have poisoned our air, fouled our water, and disrupted our communities. Now we’re years into the fight and the smell of victory—not of dirty coal trains—is in the air. But we’re not there yet.

There is only one coal port on the coast left standing. You know the drill: please submit your comment today to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and ask them to select the “no action” alternative in the Millennium Bulk Terminals Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just released their draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed coal export terminal. Speaking up during the comment period is critical. With your help, we can block the last remaining coal export terminal in the Pacific Northwest.

Last spring, the Washington Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County issued their draft EIS for the coal port and, with your help, the coalition of opponents broke records—filing over 250,000 comments. Now the Army Corp of Engineers is considering the project, and we all need to speak up with a collective voice!

Why should it be denied? Digging and burning coal increases climate change, harms water quality, and fouls the air. Coal trains running through Montana towns endangers the health and safety of our communities. Asian markets are just starting to move toward cleaner energy. They don’t need dirty Montana coal. The time to say NO is NOW!

Now is your chance to live up to Montana’s reputation of standing up for our clean water and clean air. Submit your comment today!

Helenans: Help Protect the Smith River

Contact Helena Commissioners

This petition is now closed.

End date: Oct 17, 2016

Signatures collected: 173

173 signatures

Last week Helena City Commissioner Rob Farris-Olsen introduced a resolution at the Helena City Commission that expresses concerns over the proposed Smith River Mine. The resolution requests that no mining activity be permitted unless and until the applicant ­– Tintina Resources – can demonstrate with absolute certainty that the proposal will not harm this extraordinary river. The Commission will vote on this resolution on Monday, October 17th. Please take 1 minute and ask the Helena City Commission to support the resolution.

The Smith River is an important part of Helena’s recreation and tourist economy. In fact, a study conducted on the Smith River’s economic impact to southwestern Montana’s recreation economy estimated that it generates close to $10 million in economic activity, close to $3 million in salaries and wages, and approximately $750,000 in state and local tax revenues. The resolution notes that several Helena area citizens and business are dependent upon the Smith River, in part, for their income. Year after year Helenans from all walks of life enjoy the river. In 2016 alone, approximately 966 residents in the city of Helena applied for a permit to float the Smith, and approximately 100 were successful.

A small Canadian company, Tintina Resources, has partnered with an Australian mining firm and applied for a permit to develop a large copper mine directly adjacent to and underneath Sheep Creek, at the headwaters of the Smith River. The proposed mine is of particular concern because the mine must disturb sulfide minerals, which when exposed to air and water, can form sulfuric acid in a process known as acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Furthermore, groundwater pumping from mining activities could lower the water table, and create a “cone of depression” that extends to the Sheep Creek alluvium – posing a threat to adjacent stream flows. The Smith River, and Sheep Creek, already suffer from low flows during most years, putting pressure on downstream water users and preventing the fishery from reaching its potential.

Please take 1 minute and ask the Helena City Commission to make a statement on the importance of the Smith River to Helena’s economy and Montana’s conservation legacy.

Smith 2

Speak Up for a Clean Energy Economy for Montana

Contact Montana Legislators

This petition is now closed.

End date: Aug 26, 2016

Signatures collected: 257

257 signatures

The Montana Legislature is trying to craft legislation to punish and prevent power plant owners from moving beyond dirty fuels like coal to cleaner energy sources. Instead the legislature should be developing legislation that encourages development of Montana’s abundant clean energy resources such as wind, solar and energy efficiency.

Please ask the legislature to help the town of Colstrip and the state of Montana diversify our energy portfolio, encourage jobs in the clean energy sector, and create a more sustainable energy future for Colstrip and Montana.

Power from the Colstrip coal-fired power plant goes to West Coast markets that are demanding change. Coastal states are concerned about climate change. They are working to move beyond the coal-fired power they get from Montana. Some in the Montana legislature want to punish them for concerns about climate change and want to try to force them to continue purchasing dirty coal-fired power from Montana.

Montana has the second best wind resource in the U.S. As coastal states start deciding how to move beyond coal, Montana should be positioning itself to provide the clean energy these markets are demanding. The Montana legislature should stop wasting its time trying to force customers to buy a product they no longer want and instead design ways to provide the product these customers do want – clean energy.

Clean energy means jobs in Montana, tax revenue, and a cleaner environment. Tell the Montana legislature it’s time to move toward a new and lucrative energy future and to stop looking into the rear-view mirror. We either provide the clean energy electricity that customers demand or we get left behind.

For the sake of workers, the economy and the environment, it’s time to move toward a 21st century energy system and not try to hopelessly cling to last century’s technology.

Help Shine Light on Dangerous Fracking Chemicals!

Contact the Board

This petition is now closed.

End date: Sep 25, 2016

Signatures collected: 187

187 signatures

Montana has seen a dramatic increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” during oil and gas drilling. Fracking is a technology that injects millions of gallons of water, hundreds of tons of chemicals, and sand at high-pressure underground in order to increase oil and gas production. Shockingly, many of the chemicals used during the process are toxic or carcinogenic, and have been shown to contaminate surface and ground water near drilling sites. That’s why late last month MEIC and a coalition of environmental organizations, landowners, and pubic health professionals filed a petition at the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (Board) requesting that it improve the public’s access to fracking chemical information. This is going to be an uphill battle, and we need your help.

Other states, including Wyoming, have enacted common sense safeguards that are designed to inform the public about the specific chemicals that are used for fracking adjacent to (or directly below) homes, businesses, and water supplies. While Montana enacted a chemical disclosure law in 2011, it falls short in two major ways. First, Montana does not require that operators disclose the specific chemicals they intend to use before they initiate fracking activities. Pre-fracking disclosure is critical in order for adjacent landowners to conduct baseline water quality testing so that they can monitor any change in their water quality and fully assess the risks to their health and property. Second, a loophole in Montana’s law allows operators to withhold any chemical information they deem to be trade secrets, without any oversight from the Board to ensure only legitimate trade secret information is kept confidential. These glaring deficiencies need to be changed, and we need your help.

MEIC’s petition before the Board would address these problems if the Board moves forward by initiating a rulemaking process. Specifically, the petition asks the Board to adopt rules that require operators to disclose the chemical ingredients of their fracking fluids before fracking occurs, and to close the trade secrets loophole by ensuring that only legitimate trade secrets are exempt from disclosure. Our neighboring state of Wyoming – a conservative, pro-resource development state if ever there was one – already provides these protections for its residents and there is no reason why Montanans should have to settle for less. Please join us in asking the Board for these common-sense reforms.

Support Montana Solar!

Support Solar - Sign the Petition!

This petition is now closed.

End date: Aug 25, 2016

Signatures collected: 237

237 signatures

The calendar may still read 2016, but the 2017 Montana Legislature is already in motion – and your help is needed.

Net metering – the idea that Montana families and small businesses with rooftop solar systems should be fairly compensated for the benefits of selling extra electricity into the grid – will see a key debate at the next Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee meeting on September 8th and 9th.

Show your support for more Montana solar – sign the petition on the right!

Net metering was one of the most heated energy issues last session. Since then the committee has continued the discussion and is now looking to make recommendations for where to start the net metering discussion next session. They need to hear from you that smart net metering rules will help keep Montana’s solar industry charging forward – bringing jobs, savings, and fewer climate emissions with it.

The deadline for submitting comments to the committee is coming up soon. Please show your support for Montana solar today by using the petition tool on this page.

The petition reads as follows:

Committee members,

Everyday more Montanans are choosing to generate their own clean energy with solar systems on their homes and businesses. We can keep this momentum going, but only if the rules of the game – net metering – support solar growth rather than stifle it.

Please consider the following principles in regards to any net metering recommendations:

1) Certainty should be created for the solar industry and consumers by taking a thorough look at the benefits and costs of net metering when production reaches 1% of utility sales.

2) The investments of existing customers should be protected by grandfathering in them under any future changes to the rate structure.

3) Larger capacity net metered systems should be allowed to be put onto the grid by raising the system size cap for tax-exempt customers.

Net metered solar energy development can create jobs, decrease energy costs, and clean up our electrical grid, but only with your support.

Thank you.

Tell OSM that Coal Mining Costs Our Climate

Contact OSM Now!

This petition is now closed.

End date: Jul 06, 2016

Signatures collected: 206

206 signatures

The Spring Creek mine is Montana’s largest open-pit coal strip mine, and one of the largest in the United States. From 2012-2015 the Spring Creek mine was responsible for over 119 million tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to 25 million passenger vehicles driven on America’s roas for 1 year. Recently, a federal court told the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to re-evaluate the environmental impacts of mining on another 1,111 acres at the mine. Unfortunately, OSM concluded that future mining would have no significant impact and that the mine expansion’s contribution “to greenhouse gas emissions … will be minor.” OSM’s conclusion lacks common sense and sound scientific judgment. Please contact OSM and request that it conduct an accurate analysis of the costs and impacts of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the Spring Creek Mine.

OSM’s analysis noted that mining at Spring Creek would be extended by approximately 5 years and result in 146 million tons of GHG emissions. That’s not insignificant. OSM is required to analyze the economic and social costs associated with an increase in carbon emissions – a.k.a. the “social cost of carbon.” The social cost of carbon is a detailed analytic tool developed by the federal government to determine what climate change really costs society.  However, instead of quantifying the cost of emissions from the mine, OSM “elected not to specifically quantify the social cost of carbon” due to “uncertainties.” OSM is wrong. The vast majority of scientists and credible scientific bodies are not uncertain: climate change will cost us enormously, and OSM failed in its moral and legal obligation to fully weigh the costs and benefits.

We need you to contact OSM today, and ask that it fully analyze the enormous costs that society faces from the mining and burning of coal which produces greenhouse gases. OSM noted that, for 2020 GHG emissions, the range in social cost of carbon is between $12 per ton and $123 per ton. This means that the mining and burning of the additional coal at Spring Creek could cost between $1.7 and $18 billon.  Nevertheless, OSM concluded that future mining would not have a significant impact and refused to quantify the major costs associated with burning Spring Creek coal.

Please take 1 minute, and contact OSM today! Tell it to fully quantify the costs associated with releasing an additional 146 million tons of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.