What’s With the Bad Environmental Legislation?

by jhwygirl

We’ve got bad environmental legislation this session. That’s nothing new – it happens every legislative session. Most probably think it comes from Republicans – but the truth is that good and bad comes from both sides of the aisles. There is no line drawn on environmental issues that makes good stuff comes from the Democratic side of the aisle, and the bad stuff come from the Republican.

Supermontana reporter John S. Adams, of the Great Falls Tribune, reported on some of the more egregious environmental legislation that’s passed various legislative processes in the last few days – bills which exempt MEPA review for stimulus projects (SB481); exempt water permitting regulations for coalbed methane (Didn’t Wyoming have a huge mess down there in Pinedale? Weren’t ranchers – who didn’t own subsurface rights – livid, for years, over that very issue?) (HB575); and add exemptions for air quality permits (SB440).

Wow. Sen. Keith Bales is a busy guy!

But let’s be fair here. While Bales (R) is the requestor for HB575, Rep. Bill McChesney (D) is the primary sponsor carrying the bill forward. Politics, Peaks, and Valleys has a scathing piece on this piece of you-know-what.

SB440 passed the Senate Natural Resources committee on Saturday, and now heads to the floor for a vote, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. Write or call your Senator on this one, folks.

What else made it in the last few days? Sen. Jim Keane’s (D) bill which revises laws related to major facility siting. SB360 would exempt 10 miles or up to 10% of new right-of-way from the major facility siting act. It also defines sensitive areas as “government recognized” only. This bill passed 3rd reading and now heads to the House.

Pissed off yet?

Here’s more: Democratic Sen. Larry Jent is moving SB94, which revised closed basin water permitting bills, essentially exempting water appropriation permits which would be a huge help to all sorts of oil and hard minerals acquisition interests. This bill, also, would undo recent court rulings that were adverse to the state…because – get this – the state doesn’t appeal these rulings that they lose because they know they’re going to lose them and once they do, they’ve gotta comply with the ruling state-wide. Right now, that adverse ruling just affects the one Tongue River permit that the case scrutinized. This bill passed 3rd reading on Saturday, and now heads to the House.

Lovely, right?

Oh, wait: still more – SB387, from J.S. Adams’ piece, passed the Senate floor vote on Saturday, and moves to the House. That was on a 27-23 vote.

HB483, again from the J.S. Adams piece, cleared House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee and heads to a floor vote sometime this week.

SB237, also from the J.S. Adams piece, passed 3rd reading in the House and now heads to the Senate.

What else is there? Well, there’s HB379 which would exempt municipal systems from water appropriation permitting. It sits – for now – tabled in House Natural Resources in a 10-10 vote. If you’ve not written or called on this one yet, let’s put some extra insurance out there to protect our water and Montana’s senior water rights holders and make that call to House Natural Resources, or shoot an email to Shirley Chovanak the secretary – schovanak@mt.gov.

What else? Well, Adams’ piece mentioned 3 bills that cleared House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee – and since the online edition only mentioned 1, I’ve only hit on that one. The accompanying chart, which I’m sure was very informative, though was only available in the pulp edition.

Dare I delve further? Not unless I want to get my blood pressure up, and besides that, I think I’ve had enough for now.

I’ll leave you with these two quotes, from Anne Hedges, of the Montana Environmental Information Center:

These bills violate the constitution, and they violate federal law. Many of these bills are going straight to court.

and this one:

We’ll find out how the governor really feels about environmental protection and citizens’ rights when these bills get to his desk.

  1. klemz

    I think you’re a bit off on 575. It’s not to exempt discharge from the degradation standards, but codifies Fidelity’s scheme to market waste water for dust control and livestock irrigation. Of course, it does so by calling groundwater “production water”, which was what Honzel choked on.

    I don’t even think that’s an environmental issue. It’s more like stealing.

    • I said 575 was for exempting from water permitting standards…and yep, you are right. It is like stealing.

      My paragraph there is kinda messy.

      Am I to look forward to a piece from you or the Indy on the subject? ;-)

  2. Matthew Koehler

    Just like all the bad energy bills, there are plenty of bad bills in Helena dealing with logging and the timber industry, including Sen. Dave Lewis’ SB 34 which would allow Montana counties to declare parts of federal national forests “decayed” so that logging crews could just march into national forests and start cutting down trees.

    Lewis admits his bill violates the US Constitution, but that didn’t stop the bill from passing out of the Senate with a 42-7 vote. Amazingly, Missoula Senators Carol Williams, Dave Wanzenried and Carolyn Squires voted “yes” for this bill! Thanks a lot!!

    For the most part it seems like the GOP is pretty ruthless in their promotion of these types of bills while, for the most part, the Democratic caucus is scared of its own shadow when it comes to standing up for strong environmental protections (see info above RE: SB 34).

    One of the reasons for this is that it seems like nobody in Helena wants to tackle some of the “rural myths” that are practically more prevalent at the Capital than the energy lobbyists.

    For example, look at these snips from Adams’ weekend article”

    “Streamlining the environmental permitting process has been a top legislative priority of Republicans for the past several sessions. Supporters of energy production say the public’s ability to file “endless appeals” kills projects, stymies economic growth and prevents the creation of well-paying jobs in Montana.

    Hedges said that only a small fraction of environmental permits are ever appealed. She noted that of the 4,273 air- and water-quality permits issued by the DEQ in the past three years, only three were appealed by the public, while nine were appealed by the permit applicants.”

    So, somehow the public filing appeals .07% of the time equates to “endless appeals?” Go figure. A good question to ask is given the facts about appeals of air and water-quality permits in Montana why would any Democrat in Helena buy into the notion that we need to do something to limit appeals? And haven’t we been down this road before in Helena during the Martz Administration? Didn’t we already gut MEPA?

    You are right, J-girl to say that the Democrats are part of the problem too. In fact, I heard through the grapevine that last week as Butte Democrat Art Noonan was on the floor of the House signing the praises of his bill to revise the renewal energy portfolio standard to Northwestern Energy’s favor (basically by axing out any provisions to buy power from smaller, more local, decentralized power producers) the one Democrat who criticized Noonan’s bill on the floor of the House was taken to the woodshed by Democratic leaders and was threatened with being kicked out of the entire caucus!

    It’s all just sad and frustrating. But make no mistake, unless Gov. Schweitzer is warming up his veto pen, his legacy will include the fact that he signed into law some of the worst environmental laws in the history of Montana. So much for clean and green and all those bright ideas.

    P.S. For those keeping score at home, you may remember that Mr. Ochenski predicted all of this in his “Shine a Light” legislative preview in a previous Missoula Indy.

  3. steve kelly

    Anti-environmental legislation, like most deregulation and privatization, has been a bipartisan affair. Greens and Independent candidates have periodically offered Montana voters stronger statutory protection against corporate rape and pillage. A majority of Montanans have rejected these offers. Without greater environmental voting strength, both major parties feel confident yielding to corporate power even if it means breaking their only sworn duty: to protect and defend the Constitution.

  4. sheena rice

    HB 483 is super scary..even though it was amended. And its up for second reading tomorrow. I hate to sound like a broken record you but we gotta make some calls people. And everyone (Republican and Democrat) alike need to be called and reminded that citizens have the right to participate in energy development due to their right to a clean environment.

  1. 1 2009 Legislative Session: Week 12 (Part I) « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Jim Kean, of Butte, has its second round of hearings on Wednesday, too. This one made my list of bad environmental legislation. It exempts 10 miles or up to 10% of new right-of-way from the major facility siting act. It also […]

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