We’re flying high after a series of victories last week, including the defeat of the terrible takings bill — SB 260. We also said goodbye to SB 164, SB 323, SB 84, and SB 87. Thank you SO much for your continued work and support as we continue to fight for a clean and healthful environment in Montana. If you’d like to support our work with a special donation, click here. We’re so close to our goal! If you’ve already made a donation, thank you.

However, the situation at the Capitol is more than a little sobering. Between the legislature trying to finalize the state’s budget with an influx of $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan and the ongoing conflict between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, we’re flying a little blind with regards to just how the next few weeks will play out. For better or worse, though, that’s how everyone feels right now.

Rest assured that the MEIC team is following the events closely and keeping an eye on how these conflicts could impact environmental concerns. If you have questions, join us during our Thursday call at 5 pm.

1. Keep up the pressure on SB 379, the #BillionDollarBailout bill.

Anne Hedges explains how Sen. Fitzpatrick’s “cost of a hamburger” narrative is dangerously misleading.

Sen. Fitzpatrick and NorthWestern Energy are upping their misinformation game, claiming that SB 379 is only going to increase your utility bill by the cost of a hamburger each month. And that’s not so bad, right?

Well, we don’t agree. 

First of all, let’s not raise energy bills at all.

Second, this is misrepresenting the data that the Public Service Commission used to calculate the increased cost. We have that spreadsheet, and Anne spent some time on our call last week explaining how SB 379 will let NorthWestern bypass the PSC and charge customers up to $700/year. You can watch the video above. Read and share this op-ed from Anne on that exact topic.

Third, remember that press releases and social media posts arenotlaw. We’ve read the bill. We know what it says and what it will do if enacted. You can read the bill, too. Feel free to send us any questions on this one. It’s big and confusing on purpose.

We’re still collecting signatures asking legislators not to support this bill. If you don’t support paying hundreds more on your utility bills, consider signing one or both of these letters.

Letter for business owners:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeWZx3T4QGWwJYajuKVRWZDsECsLMzzKLvvxPFYOjHPWmD1jw/viewform?pli=1&pli=1&gxids=7628

Letter for anyone impacted by rising utility costs: https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/28

Action: Call your Representative and message the full House saying you oppose SB 379. If you want to learn more about this outrageous bill, go to MEIC’s website here and see MEIC’s latest fact sheet, read newspaper articlesbusiness-focused op-eds,editorials, and watch recent TV coverage.

2. Message Senate Finance committee in support of electric vehicles.

HB 188 would add $250 onto existing registration fees for vehicles that are electric (and $400 for trucks using electric batteries). That amount is more than every other state in the US!

Luckily, Sen. Jacobson has introduced an amendment to make electric vehicle registration fees more reasonable. Sen. Jacobson’s amendment would provide a $150 annual registration fee for most electric vehicles, which is on par with other states. Since electric vehicles don’t use gas and Montana relies on gas taxes to fund road maintenance, many legislators believe that something must be done to force electric vehicles to contribute to these road funds. MEIC believes this idea lacks supporting documentation to demonstrate that the extra fee is reasonable but since this legislature seems determined to do something on this issue, we believe Senator Jacobson’s amendment is the best we can do. 

Action: Contact the Senate Finance and Claims committee and ask them to adopt Sen. Jacobson’s amendments. 

3. Here’s our veto list. Contact the Governor about these bills now.

It’s that time of the session. Here’s a list of bad bills headed to the Governor’s desk. Call and email, asking him to veto these bills.

Land Use & Water

Environmental Policy

Local Control

Clean Energy

Fossil Fuels & Nukes

Action: Call Gov. Gianforte and Lt. Gov. Juras: (406) 444-3111
Email them both: governor@mt.gov

MEIC in the News

A copper mine threatens the iconic Smith River. It will bring jobs and the copper needed for a renewable-energy future, but is it worth the risk to one of the last pristine waterways?

Geologist Jerry Zieg grew up next to the Smith River in central Montana, on the ranch his family has owned for five generations. The river irrigated their land. He learned to fish from its pristine bounty of westslope cutthroat trout. The river’s russet canyon walls, with 1,000-year-old pictographs drawn by the Besant and Avonlea peoples, were what first inspired his fascination with geology. Later, when he married his wife, the two floated the Smith for their honeymoon. “My family sold the part right on the river in the mid-Eighties, but I still have the rest of that land where I grew up on the Smith,” he says proudly.

He’s not alone in his reverence for the Smith. It is hallowed water in Montana. More than the Blackfoot, which reached mythical status in A River Runs Through It, and more than the federally protected Flathead, which makes up the borders of Glacier National Park, the Smith, which flows for 59 off-the-grid miles through the Belt Mountains, is iconic as the state’s sole permitted river; every year, thousands of Montanans and out-of-staters enter a lottery to snag a coveted spot to float and fish it.

In 2010, when a grassroots coalition called Montanans for Healthy Rivers formed to protect the veins of Montana’s heritage, the group put boots on the ground in communities all over Montana to find out which waters people thought were worthiest of preserving. “[The Smith] came up around the state,” says Kascie Herron, Northern Rockies associate director for the conservation organization American Rivers. “It’s one of those where it’s everyone’s river, even if it’s not in your backyard. The Smith is the soul of Montana.”

Read more: The Battle for the Soul of Montana – Cassidy Randall, Rolling Stone. April 15, 2021

Check out some other news stories from the past week:

Haaland creates climate task force, pledges to address environmental injustices – Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press. April 16, 2021

Federal Court Halts Proposed Rock Creek Mine in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains – Center for Biological Diversity, April 15, 2021

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