Montana Environmental Information Center
Clean and healthful. It's your right, our mission.

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Climate Action Rallies Planned Across the State for April 26

On Saturday, April 26, all across the state, people will come together for the Montanans for Climate Solutions Rallies. From Bigfork to Lame Deer and many points in between, Montanans will raise the issue of climate change and pressure officials and businesses to support proactive and positive solutions to the climate crisis.
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Lots of reasons (and ways!) to celebrate Earth Day 2014

By Sara Marino, MEIC Development Director

MEIC kid

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, it’s a good time to reflect on the air, water, and landscapes that nurture our health and our hearts. I am grateful for the opportunity to watch my son grow and thrive in the outdoors, and enjoy all the activities Montana provides in our own backyard – floating, camping, mountain biking, fishing, skiing, and more. And I am always grateful for the people around our state who share MEIC’s passion for protecting and preserving all that we treasure today and for future generations. Thank you to the thousands of MEIC supporters who make our work possible. We cannot do it without you!
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MEIC needs your help to protect the Smith River

By Steve Gilbert, Former MEIC Board Member


I have a warm spot in my heart for lots of places in Montana. I’ve worked and played in all 56 counties and have serious emotional ties to some incredible pieces of country. Among my all-time favorites is the Smith River and the enormous and beautiful country it drains.

I guided fly fishers on the Smith for 20 years and have canoed, floated, fished, and hunted it for more than 35. Both of my kids floated it as youngsters and now work on the river with an outfitter. And they would tell you how much they have grown to love it as well.

They are a small part of the very large group of people who love it and depend on its clear, clean water for a significant portion of their livelihoods. The floating season isn’t long on the Smith - say April through October in a very exceptional water year. But during the peak floating months of May, June and July, hundreds of people salt away millions of dollars that can be traced directly to work the Smith provides. It is
the kind of work that minimally affects the resource and could last forever.

I say “could last” because it will do so only as long as its water quality is not compromised by people eager for short-term gain. Well, guess what? Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality has once again thrown caution to the winds and has given another Canadian mining company the green light to “explore” for minerals in the headwaters of Sheep Creek, one of the Smith’s exceptional trout spawning tributaries.

DEQ has a long history of telling us “don’t worry, we’re sure there won’t be impacts that can’t be mitigated, trust us.” Remember Zortman-Landusky, where another Canadian mining company cut and ran? They destroyed thousands of acres in the Little Rockies, poisoned a beautiful prairie stream and left Montanans holding the bag for water treatment in perpetuity? DEQ told us not to worry during that project’s exploration phase too.

The proposed “exploration” tunnel on Sheep Creek will be 18’ by 18’ by one mile long. The rock they will pull out of that shaft is sulfidic. This means that when it is exposed to air and water, sulfuric acid is created. It will drain into the Smith and kill aquatic insects, riparian vegetation and fish. The list of sulfide ore mines in the west that killed streams is as long as this “exploration” shaft.

DEQ is supposed to work for us, not industry. They are legally mandated to help provide us with the clean and healthful environment guaranteed in the Montana
Constitution. They most often do neither and can only be held accountable when you and I raise hell and sue them.

MEIC is doing just that and we need your help. It will be an expensive battle, and I hope you feel like I do about the Smith River. It’s worth whatever we can afford to give it.

Steve Gilbert is a former MEIC board member and a recent recipient of the Len and Sandy Sargent Award, given rarely for work above and beyond the call of duty to MEIC.

What Resources will Meet Montana’s Electricity Needs in the Future?

By Kyla Maki

Montana’s largest energy utility, NorthWestern Energy (NWE) has filed a plan with the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) that attempts to answer this question.

Every two years, NWE files this Resource Procurement Plan (Plan) that identifies the mix of electric resources that they will build or buy to meet the short term and long term electricity needs. If you live within the limits of a city or town in Montana, you are likely a NorthWestern Energy electric customer. This means that this resource plan affects you and your electric bill. Equally as important, NWE’s plan will affect where your electricity comes from.

Water, Water Everywhere

NorthWestern’s resource plan focuses on the “preferred” resource, or resources that the utility identifies as meeting future electricity needs. In the 2013 Plan, NWE identifies the 11 hydroelectric dams owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) as their “preferred” resource. This doesn’t come as a surprise because NorthWestern announced last September that they agreed to purchase the dams from PPL for $900 million.  The total combined capacity of the dams is just over 600 megawatts.
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EPA Agrees to Adopt Coal Ash Regulations by the End of 2014

By Anne Hedges

Tennessee Coal Ash Spill

Tennessee Coal Ash Spill, NRDC Photo

This week brought good news.  After years of negotiation, litigation, promises made, and promises broken, MEIC, a Native American tribe, and public health and environmental organizations signed a legally-binding agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying that EPA must adopt regulations for safe coal ash disposal by the end of 2014.

After the Tennessee coal ash disaster in 2008, Obama promised to adopt the first-ever federal controls for safe disposal of the second largest waste stream in the country. That was welcome news to those living near Colstrip’s contaminated coal ash ponds (a.k.a. 800 acres of leaking coal sludge impoundments). EPA then hired consultants to investigate coal ash impoundments, including those at Colstrip. Those consultants found that Colstrip’s dams posed a very real danger to human health and downstream economic activity, yet neither state nor federal governments had ever inspected the dams. EPA promised to do something about the nation’s dangerous coal waste disposal problems.

In 2010 EPA proposed the first-ever federal rules to regulate this toxic waste stream. People living in the shadow of these impoundments cheered. But then EPA balked. It never finalized either of its proposals.

This settlement brings to a close the nagging question of whether EPA will ever do its job. Now the question is whether EPA will adopt a regulation that actually requires cleanup of these highly contaminated sites, ensures safe storage of waste in the future, and allows effective enforcement by government and citizens when government fails. None of those things seem like too much to demand. But Congress likes to interfere when EPA actually does its job. So while this settlement is a good step, we will have to keep pressure on EPA to actually protect public health and safety.

Thank You for Your Support in 2013!

By Molly Severtson, Director of Major Gifts

2013 was another great year for MEIC, and our members and supporters – YOU! – are the reason why.

With your help, we were able to do the following important work last year:

  • Thank You!Won a lawsuit, requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal ash.
  • Opposed a mine at the headwaters of the Smith River.
  • Pushed the Montana Public Service Commission to be more transparent.
  • Promoted the production of clean energy in our state.

In addition in 2013, we celebrated MEIC’s 40th Anniversary – four great decades of protecting clean air and water in Montana and YOUR right to a clean and healthful environment.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting MEIC. If you’re not a member yet, please click here to join us today!


Montana Coal Exports Are Bad Business

By Derf Johnson

Montana Coal Exports are Bad BusinessToday the Montana Environmental Information Center released a white paper detailing the major financial, environmental, and regulatory risks facing the export of Montana coal. The report summarizes the major constraints facing the industry's attempted export of Montana coal, and why the proposal is speculative and fraught with major financial risks.

Beyond considerations of climate change and environmental harm, the proposed increase in exports faces significant financial and regulatory constraints that ultimately cloud their future viability. The coal industry and its supporters are gambling on a market that, more than likely, will no longer exist in the near future.

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What does the Fox say? (Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox, that is)

By Derf Johnson

Attorney General Tim FoxAttorney General Tim Fox is taking extreme positions that compromise our Montana values and our fundamental right to a clean and healthful environment.

What does the Fox say? Montana’s new Attorney General Tim Fox has taken some peculiar legal positions since taking the helm as Montana’s lead attorney. These positions can only be characterized as outdated or inconsistent arguments that radically over-emphasize states’ rights or side with multinational corporations at the expense of a balanced approach to environmental regulation.

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Giving Tuesday – Not Just Another Day

By Molly Severtson, Director of Major Gifts

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is coming up soon!

You probably avoid the massive crowds on Black Friday, but you might snag a great deal on Cyber Monday. And, of course, you try to get out on Small Business Saturday to support your local shops. But, have you heard of Giving Tuesday?

Designated last year by the nonprofit community, Giving Tuesday is a day to reflect on our values and priorities, and give to the nonprofits that are doing the work that matters to us.

If you’re reading this blog, we know you probably value clean air and water in Montana. And, we couldn’t do the work we do – protecting those precious resources – without you! So, please take a moment on Tuesday, December 3, to visit our website and give a special gift to MEIC in honor of Giving Tuesday. Every gift counts in the fight AGAINST environmental degradation and pollution and FOR a clean and healthful environment. Thank you!

NorthWestern Moves Toward Clean Energy – Today’s IPCC Report Says Move is Critical

By Anne Hedges

The Thompson Falls Dam, one of the eleven dams that will be purchased by NorthWestern Energy from PPL Corp.

It was good news yesterday when we learned that NorthWestern Energy (NWE) is assisting PPL Corp. in exiting Montana. It was even better news that NWE is buying PPL’s dams, and not purchasing its dirty old coal plants, Colstrip and Corette. It’s hard to imagine that the increasing risk of carbon emissions didn’t play a role in NWE's decision to steer clear of PPL’s coal plants. Regardless, NorthWestern’s announcement was welcome news, especially in light of the very dire news from today’s release of the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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