Volume 22, Number 6 — May 2, 2017, PDF Version
The 2017 Montana Legislature has adjourned, sine die (Latin for “without [setting a] day [to return]. MEIC had incredible success in stopping a number of bad bills in their tracks, in large part thanks to the help of our members and supporters who contacted their legislators. It was a lot of work for you, we know, but well worth it! Thank you for all that you did!
We’ve already asked a lot of you this session, but we need you to do one more thing. There are seven bad bills that passed and are now heading to the governor. These bills threaten Montana’s clean water, clean air, wild landscapes, and Montanans’ right to a clean and healthful environment. Gov. Steve Bullock is deciding right now whether to veto these terrible ideas, or allow them to become law.
Please take a minute and let him know you want him to veto them all. They deserve only to be tossed into the dustbin of history. You can contact the governor at (406) 444-3111 or email@example.com.
Environmental Protection, and Public Health and Safety
This bill would eliminate the Montana Board of Environmental Review. The BER has oversight authority over the Department of Environmental Quality for rule making, as well as deciding on challenges to DEQ’s permit decisions and enforcement actions. The BER acts as an independent body that determines whether DEQ is following the law and whether rules need to be changed to better protect the environment, and public health and safety. Polluting industries are upset that the BER has refused to rubber stamp every DEQ permit for water discharges and coal mine expansions. Eliminating the BER would be a significant blow to the public’s ability to hold DEQ accountable.
This bill would allow the State Land Board to extend the duration of coal leases beyond the customary 10-year term if the Board finds that doing so would be in the “best interest of the state.” The bill could result in a lease renewal for the Otter Creek coal tracts if Arch Coal fails to develop its proposed mine by the end of its current 10-year lease. The bill would also mean that the State would forego the possible additional revenue from new leases.
This bill would functionally overturn a Montana Supreme Court decision announced last year by again exempting most water wells drawing less than 35 gallons per minute from having to obtain a water right. Its impact will be to deplete stream flows, undermine senior water rights, increase sprawl, and spark conflict among water users. It is irresponsible to put development before water security, senior water rights, and Montana’s prized fisheries. It’s also bad science, imposing arbitrary guidelines for water use in a state with complex hydrology and already over-allocated streams.
This bill would allow anyone using the family transfer exemption in the Subdivision and Platting Act to also be guaranteed an exemption from obtaining a water right for a well that pumps up to 35 gallons per minute. This would eliminate any checks on the location of the new well and on whether it would have any impact on neighboring water wells or sewage disposal systems. The family transfer exemption is already a harmful loophole in the subdivision law, and this bill would compound the problem.