The legislature is heating up, so we are cheating* a little bit by asking you to contact three different legislative committees on six different bills! The Senate Natural Resources, House Energy, and Senate Local Government committees are each holding hearings on Wed., Feb. 3rd at 3 pm. You can either contact the committee members here or leave a message for them by calling (406) 444-4800 or, better yet, you can register to testify on any of these bills by Tuesday, Feb. 2nd at noon.
Don’t forget: Each week you can learn more about the most critical bills that MEIC is working on this session by going to our website at meic.org. You can also join us every Thursday at 5 PM for a rundown of the bills and the answers to your questions. This week, Makenna Sellers from Northern Plains Resource Council will join us to discuss C-PACE. You can join using your computer or phone.
1. Help Protect Water Quality
The Senate Natural Resources Committee will hear SB 164 and SB 136 on Wednesday, Feb. 3rd. MEIC strongly opposes both bills. Call or write your legislator or, better yet, testify against both bills. You must register to testify no later than Tuesday, Feb. 2nd at noon here.
- SB 164 by Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila) would increase the amount of allowable pollution of nitrates to 10 milligrams per liter. Nitrates are commonly associated with sewage. This is the maximum pollution allowed under the Clean Water Act and will likely lead to violations of narrative water quality standards for fishable, swimmable, and drinkable rivers and streams.
- SB 136 by Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) would strike the term “legally available” and replace it with “water rights” in the statute governing the Montana Department of Natural Resources’ (DNRC) evaluation of applications for new water rights permits. This change is significant, as it would require the DNRC to consider only the “water right demands” on a body of water, and prohibit the DNRC from potentially considering other demands such as in-stream flow in order to maintain stream health and water quality.
2. Help Stop NorthWestern Energy’s Rush to Build Expensive Gas Plants
The House Energy Committee will hear two bills on Wednesday, Feb. 3rd. MEIC strongly opposes HB 245 and strongly supports HB 99. Call or write your legislator and committee members or, better yet, testify on both bills. You must register to testify by Tuesday, Feb. 2nd at noon here.
- HB 245 by Rep. Larry Brewster (R-Billings) is an anti-consumer bill that would make it easier for NorthWestern Energy to overcharge customers for expensive new gas plants. The bill increases the burden on the Public Service Commission (PSC) when it decides whether NorthWestern Energy can charge customers for expensive electricity generating resources such as pricey new gas plants (or five). The bill also shortens the timeframe for the PSC to make that decision. These fundamental shifts put consumers in the crosshairs of higher electricity rates in order to benefit NorthWestern’s shareholders.
- HB 99, by Representative Denise Hayman (D-Bozeman), would eliminate utility pre-approval. Unlike most utilities, NorthWestern can request the Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve its purchase of a generating resource (such as it did with the hydroelectric system or gas plants) and pass all of the costs and risks on to customers instead of allowing the shareholders to bear the initial risk. This pre-approval process creates a disincentive for the utility to do its due diligence. Instead, the utility can shift its due diligence burden to the PSC who has a short timeframe and insufficient resources. Pre-approval only benefits the utility at the expense of utility customers.
3. Help Protect Montana Communities from Unrestrained Development
The Senate Local Government Committee will hear SB 161 and SB 164 on Wednesday, Feb. 3rd at 3 p.m. MEIC strongly opposes both bills. Call or write your legislator and committee members or, better yet, testify on both bills. You must register to testify by Tuesday, Feb. 2nd at noon here.
- SB 161 by Sen. John Esp (R-Big Timber) would create an expedited subdivision review process that would allow a subdivider to bypass important environmental and public services review processes. It would exempt qualifying subdivisions from preparation of an environmental assessment. It also exempts them from the primary review criteria which covers impacts to agriculture, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and local services and facilities. This will make it difficult to mitigate impacts regardless of the number of lots contained in the proposed subdivision. Finally, SB 161 eliminates a public hearing by the local planning board, thereby providing one less opportunity for community involvement.
- SB 165 by Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila) would eliminate sanitation review for subdivisions of land that are greater than 500 feet from surface waters and exempt minor subdivisions of land from having to conduct a storm drainage review. It also appears to exempt expansions of systems designed for wastewater disposal, storm water, and solid waste disposal from review.