Archive for February 18th, 2010

by jhwygirl

Superprogressiveeditorialist The George Ochenski has his latest column up for the Missoula Independent taking on the Fire Sale that the state land board put forward (by a 3-2 vote) on Monday by dropping the .25/ton bid price on Otter Creek coal by a full 20% 40% to .15/ton.

(I should note I stole that headline right out of GO’s post, too)

He lays out the hypocrisy of saving the Flathead from coal mining, while approving Otter Creek, knowing darn well it will destroy that valley.

That’s the difficult thing to reconcile. And while I’ve been called “bitter” for railing on Otter Creek (and yes, as a pro-coal cheerleader for Otter Creek, Governor Brian Schweitzer has been on the receiving end of this wrath) while not mentioning a peep about the wind projects approved – one was actually approved by Judy Martz (Judith Gap) – I believe that is a bit unfair.

Since Brian likes to tell stories – he compared the dropping of the bid price to an auctioneer trying to sell a couch – I’ll put forth my reasoning for not championing these wind projects.

Two rights don’t fix a wrong. If your 16-year old son takes your car for the night and comes home drunk, but still makes it home safely and by curfew, do you reward him because he came home on time without a scratch on the car? I doubt it. You aren’t going to overlook that he is drunk and that he drove drunk. Frankly, once you realize he’s drunk, the fact that he got home on time and the car was unharmed won’t mean a damned thing. And if he says to you as you drill down on him for drinking and drinking and driving “but I got home on time,” that might even piss you off more.

So approving 3 wind projects (this is kind of an extension of that hypocrisy that Ochenski was talking about, isn’t it?) over the last 5 years doesn’t make approving Otter Creek right.

These kinds of decisions aren’t like elections. It isn’t a popularity contest. There are people that don’t keep a score of good and bad and whichever you do more of in the end negates all that other stuff. I dare say that most people expect their electeds to do the right thing.

And Otter Creek was the wrong thing.

And George Ochenski kicks ass.

~~~~~~
There are other things that don’t have me all happy and cheery about those wind projects. Every single one of ’em is taking power to California or Oregon or Washington or Colorado or Nevada. They require major transmission lines crossing our state – and those transmission lines are going to mean private property is going to be taken in some cases under eminent domain (or threat of – most people end up knowing that they really can’t afford a fight with those big corporations).

So it’s kind of hard to champion wind power when we aren’t getting any of it…but what we are getting is a whole bunch of power lines crossing the state, carrying that power over our heads and over to California. AND private landowners (ranchers), some of which are reluctantly acquiescing to the presence of those lines, under the inevitable threat of a government takings lawsuit.

What is Montana? A colonial outpost for California’s electricity and Wyoming’s coal rail road market line?

Call me crazy, call me whatever – but when someone’s talking green energy, I expect it to be for us here in Montana. At least some of it.

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by Pete Talbot

News that former Montana Governor Marc Racicot has joined the board of Plum Creek Timber should come as no surprise. Since leaving the state, Racicot has shilled for the insurance industry, railroads and energy corporations. And, of course, George W. Bush.

Racicot is from Libby and it was while he was serving his two terms as governor that asbestos-related diseases came to light in this Northwestern Montana mining and logging town. He ignored this deadly problem.

Plum Creek also has some history in Libby. It bought all the timberlands in the area from Champion International in 1991. Plum Creek didn’t take the eighty-year-old mill in this exchange, though. It was bought by Stimson Lumber and then closed 11 years later. Plum Creek doesn’t really like the lumber business as it has found that parceling out its prime real estate is much more lucrative. It has closed most of its mills in Montana.

I met the former governor a couple of times back in the ’90s. He was one of Montana’s most popular governors and a heck of a nice guy. His legacy is a bit tarnished these days, what with the Libby asbestos fiasco, his push to deregulate Montana Power, and abruptly moving to D.C. after serving as governor to become a high-powered insurance industry lobbyist and one of Bush Jr.’s closest friends.

Some retired public officials continue to make Montana their home and continue to work for our state’s best interests. Others don’t.

(Update: There’s more Plum Creek news. The Indy’s Matthew Frank has an interesting piece about Plum Creek’s hold on Seeley Lake’s planning and zoning process.)




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