In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program (CPRG) awarded the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) $3 million as the Governor’s designated lead agency to develop a Climate Action Plan for the state. This planning grant represents the first of two CPRG funding phases. The second phase will distribute $4.6 billion nationally for implementation projects included in states’ Climate Action Plans. DEQ held a public meeting in October to elicit input on pollution reduction measures to include in Montana’s plan. The CPRG seeks to target greenhouse gas emissions reduction across the following key economic sectors: electricity generation, industry, transportation, buildings, agricultural/natural and working lands, and waste management. The Governor’s office is limiting DEQ to use the funding for “nonregulatory” projects.. Unfortunately, this makes it very challenging for funds awarded in Montana to target the primary culprit of greenhouse gas emissions: fossil fuel combustion for energy.
This is not Montana’s first climate planning process, but it is slightly different than previous ones. The Schweitzer Administration published the Montana Climate Change Action Plan in 2007, and the Bullock Administration published the Montana Climate Solutions Plan in 2020. These planning processes were resource-intensive and amounted to little progress towards concrete greenhouse gas emission reductions. The current process is only intended to provide a framework by which local, state, and Tribal governments can apply for additional funding if those projects are included in states’ plans. In accepting these federal dollars, DEQ must ensure that the money goes towards a plan that will tangibly move the needle on reducing greenhouse gas emissions with explicit, time-bound goals for Montana’s energy system. Unfortunately, the timeframe to design projects and apply for funding is tremendously short, and the fossil fuel industry appears to be lining up to receive this funding for performative projects that may very well avoid the transitions necessary for true decarbonization.
This article was published in the December 2023 issue of Down To Earth.