Archive for the ‘Denise Juneau’ Category

by Pete Talbot

And here I thought Sen. Max Baucus was retiring from the U.S. Senate so he could spend more time in Montana with his lovely, young wife.  He’s even building a home in the Bozeman area.

It looks like I was wrong.  The blogs are awash with the news that Max will most likely be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.  I won’t link to them all — they range from kudos to criticism — and you’ve probably already read them.  Here’s the NY Times story, though.

Now China will be his legacy since tax reform is off the table and the Affordable Care Act isn’t exactly being warmly embraced.

The big question: who will be appointed by Gov. Bullock as Baucus’ place holder until the 2014 election?

Ahh, to be a fly on the wall in those smoke-filled back rooms (although not as smokey as they used to be thanks to anti-tobacco trends).  Who to pick: Lt. Gov. John Walsh, Brian Schweitzer, Pat or Carol Williams, one of our Tier-B women (Juneau, McCulloch, Lindeen)?

Now former Baucus/Obama staffer Jim Messina is being mentioned.  How the hell did he get in the mix?

And if Bullock appoints Walsh, who will he then appoint as lieutenant governor?  (Bohlinger?  That would be ironic, n’est pas?)

I’m sure all these questions were hashed out and answered many months ago by the powers that be.  The rest of us are just along for the ride.

UPDATE: It’s official.  Obama nominates Baucus for Ambassador to China position.  Max’s appointment should sail through Senate hearings.

by Pete Talbot

It was one of the broadest coalitions I’ve seen in years.

But it was hard to get crowd estimates in the rolling front yard of the Capitol — over a thousand for sure.  Folks kept pouring in from around Montana, connecting with friends and sharing the wrath.

The rally literally took off at the end: a march around the Capitol grounds with all the signs and fired-up people, just as the sun was breaking through the clouds, and to the PA playing “We’re Not Going to Take It” by Twisted Sister.

This followed the speeches which were many, but short and to the point: a Billings firefighter, a Bozeman pastor, a Missoula small business owner, a veteran, a Blackfeet Indian, to name a few.

The themes were “Courage, Not Cuts,” “These Cuts Hurt,”  “We Have the Money, Reverse the Cuts,” and “Work That Matters.”

It was an eclectic mix: ironworkers and teachers, environmentalists and health care activists, Crow and Blackfeet, emergency service workers and the disabled … and kids.

(More photos and copy below the fold.)

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

On the heels of Sunday’s post which apparently was one of a few that set former Representative Pat Williams’ phone ringing (sorry Carol, Pat) – if we’re all going to get hyped up about who is going to take over when The Brian leaves office, all I have to say is this:

Denise Juneau, You’re up.

by jhwygirl

That’s what many said to the State Land Board (and to 3 of its 5 members, Governor Schweitzer, Secretary of State Linda McDulloch and Auditor Monica Lindeen) before then went ahead anyway and approved the Otter Creek coal leases.

Not before – let’s not forget – a poorly orchestrated show between Governor Schweitzer and Linda McCulloch, who first added a bonus bid of 15 cents/ton. Four of ’em played along in that one (with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau casting the lone dissenting vote), but in the end, even Attorney General Steve Bullock changed his mind, seeing through the corporate welfare that was, eventually, approved – a 40% drop in price (and let’s not feign that this was in any way a “bid” given that only one entity could competitively bid on it, given the land-locked nature of the state lands involved and the fact that the bidder is the one that land-locks the land) along with a $57 million instant subsidy of the coal corporate giants.

Can’t forget, either, that a railroad that will also need to be condemned through Montana’s eminent domain laws – that’s condemnation of private land in the interest of a private corporate entity, folks – a railroad that will save that private corporate entity well in the range of $100 million a year in hauling costs from Wyoming’s extensive coal fields down south.

Don’t try and tell me that coal isn’t subsidized – a industry as old as the world is still gaining both federal and state subsidy to operate. Ridiculous.

Oh, yeah – there was more. The votes were disappointing (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Monica I-campaigned-on-a-biodiesel-bus Lindeen). Even Button Valley was getting an overload of it, as was I, as Governor Brian Schweitizer headed out around the state pushing on communities to sign a oath to coal in order to get their legislatively appropriated stimulus money.

An illegal transgression that was largely overlooked – as was the stashing of that Otter Creek bid money in this year’s general budget instead of going to schools as it is legally obligated to do (along with that whole the-legislature-is-the-only-lawful-appropriator-of-money thing). It’s something that is coming home to roost, those illegal transgressions, and quickly becoming a private joke amongst many of us who railed against both of these things when they were occurring.

But we’ll leave that for another post, and the real journalists who are already asking the questions. Enable once, shame on you..enable twice, shame again…but sure as hell don’t get indignant about it the third time around…

Enter now Northern Plains Resource Council, the Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club, who collectively filed two lawsuits this week challenging the Otter Creek coal lease approval.

NPRC and WF said that the state land board failed to adequately analyze the environmental effects of the project. MEIC and SC challenged on the basis of the economic and global warming effects of the project.

There are a myriad of problems with Otter Creek. I’m mystified as to the embracing – in a state that seems to champion individual property rights – of a project that will railroad over the private property rights of individuals (pun intended).

I’m also mystified that a state – in a time of general budget distress not only internally, but nationwide – would dish out such corporate welfare to the detriment of our very own children’s education funding.

What’s the real shame is that Montana’s citizens – and its very worthy non-profits – have to sue to get the state to meet its constitutional obligations outlined in what is known in our state constitution as the Montana Environmental Policy Act.

This can not and should not be taken lightly. I don’t care how many laws that the legislature passes or tries to pass attacking it. This is a constitutional guarantee. Guarantee. And this word can not be overemphasized enough. This isn’t some old state constitution. It is a modern document, with words that were carefully chosen, discussed and debated in modern many-remember-them times. Guarantee was not a word chosen or placed lightly, and it leaves little room for discussion.

It is the law of the land. Our state agencies, our land board and our Governor all have the obligation to make sure that guarantee is met each and every day. Shame on them for having to be sued to comply with constitutional obligations.

by jhwygirl

A timely post, given that the corporate welfare 15 cent bid (or bids) for the Otter Creek coal tracts were announced late Monday.

Below are Attorney General Steve Bullock’s comments at the February hearing where the Land Board (in a 3-2 vote, with Bullock and Superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction Denise Juneau voting no) lowered the bid price from 25 cent/ton to 15 cent/ton, a 40% reduction.

Governor, my colleagues – this is certainly a decision that’s received its share of attention and I think that often the loss of the arguments both for and against – and it always doesn’t fit into a two-minute news story – are the requirements that the Constitution imposes upon us as Land Board members.

This isn’t a policy decision like a legislator can make for or against continued development of coal. And it’s not like the decision to sell off a piece of surplus property. Montana Supreme Court has said that we have a duty to the public that goes beyond that of the ordinary business man. The courts have also said that the Land Board must get full market value – the largest measure of legitimate advantage – for any property that we lease or sell.

When I voted in December to lease Otter Creek I said that I’ll support the project if it’s done right…and doing it in a manner consistent with our Constitutional duties carries with it in my mind at least three considerations: First, the coal must be leased and developed in a way that follows our environmental laws and includes continued oversight by this board. Second, the lease must maximize the benefit to the trust as the Constitution requires, and third – that Montana taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a railroad that benefits coal and power companies.

I don’t believe that lowering the bid price to 15 cents per ton or monkeying with royalty payments fulfills that obligation to maximize the benefit to the state treasury. And I think it’s easy to think that all we’re talking about today when we’re talking about the difference between 25 cents and 15 cents per ton for a bonus bid is one thin dime.

The drop in our bonus bid of 10 cents will cost the state $57 million. That’s $57 million dollars.

This 10 cent reduction will cost the treasury about the amount generated by every timber sale this board approved over the last 5 years.

Even in these tough times, Montana’s budget is in a stronger position than just about every other state because we’ve been fiscally conservative. Unloading the coal with a bonus bid that’s a fraction of what our neighbors are charging isn’t’ consistent with that fiscal responsibility that we’ve shown.

And it certainly, in my estimation, doesn’t meet the Constitutional obligations to maximize the amount of money we return to the state treasury.

And as the board is looking and considering to lower the bidder royalty to make this more attractive for the coal developers I don’t think that we can do that without acknowledging that we will be funding the Tongue River Railroad. I’ve said since the beginning that what I don’t want to see is Montana taxpayers footing the bill for a railroad to get coal and energy companies a windfall. And I’ve also said that were the railroad in place I think everyone would agree that we’d be getting more for this lease than what Arch has so-far signaled that it is willing to pay.

I’ve asked rail economists to independently analyze this..and provided that to the Board and they concluded that the Wyoming-originated coal will save $2.83/ton in shipping costs if this railroad is completed.

While we’re debating whether to reduce our bonus bid by another 10 cents a ton, Wyoming shippers will be getting a discount of 28 times that if the railroad is completed. And while we’re talking about reducing the amount to our treasury by $57 million, this review shows that a railroad in the Tongue River can save existing coal mines and power companies potentially well over $100 million each and every year.

I just don’t think that in these tough economic times Montana taxpayers should be asked to effectively be bailing out multi-national coal and energy companies. That’s not the state’s role.

Now – there will be a time when this project makes sense and I think there will be a bidder that will be willing to pay full market value for the right to develop this resource. And as members of the Land Board that at that time we do have a Constitutional obligation to lease that land. Until then, I don’t think that we need to have a fire sale. I will be voting against the motion to reduce the bonus bid from 25 to 15 cents.

After which the room broke out in applause.

Bullock’s decision was not easy. It showed. Saying the things he said contradicts much of what the proponents of the leases (on both sides of the table) had said.

Doing the right thing should not be so hard. Insider politics makes doing the right thing hard. I hope Bullock has seen the support that has stuck to him his decision to do the right thing.

I know I will remember. Thank you Denise – Thank you Steve.

by jhwygirl

In a 3 – 2 vote (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Lindeen voting yes), the Land Board voted to lower the minimum bid price on the Otter Creek tracts from .25/ton to .15/ton.

I’ve yet to stomach a viewing of the entire hearing – but thanks to my DVR (and since the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio and video like the legislature has been able to do for quite a number of years), I’ll be watching it tonight.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Attorney General Steve Bullock both voted against the project. For that, I am deeply grateful.

I hope to transcribe the testimony and comments of at least two individuals from today’s hearing. AG Bullock spoke to the corporate welfare that he saw about to be dispensed. Another opponent spoke to the corporate money of Arch Coal – where they put it and the return they would get if the leases were approved.

Those words – like Juneau’s “no” vote in December – need to be out there so that people can be reminded of precisely what was at stake when Otter Creek becomes the disaster that will be.

And make no mistake, those that voted yes were keenly aware of that impending disaster. Lee reporter Mike Dennison captured that awareness by referencing Governor Schweitzer’s promises to Montana’s water resources prior to the yes vote by he and Lindeen and McCulloch. I’ve gone ahead and transcribed them word for word. Read them and ponder why the taxpayers must forego $5 million in coal revenues to the general fund or to the school trust (he didn’t say where he planned to take that $5 million) to protect Montana’s water resources.

I’m going to instruct my budget director, to put in my budget that we take to the legislature, $5 million so that every high school in Montana will either have solar panels or a wind turbine at their school and in order for them to receive this money – which is approximately $32,000 per school – they’ll have to sign a contract with the Department of Commerce that they will spend a minimum of 5 hours teaching time in each of those classrooms with every high school student in Montana explaining to them how this alternative energy works and how it is the energy of the future. I’m also going to instruct the budget director to put $5 million in the budget to protect those that live in Otter Creek and their water. I don’t know who the director of DEQ will be 8 years, 12 years, 20 years from now. I’ve no idea who will be seated on this land board…who will be responsible at the DNRC. We can’t control that – the people of Montana will elect those positions, and the rest of ’em will be appointed. So that’s why whether the DEQ or the DNRC has the fortitude to make sure that the mining companies are protecting the water assets of the people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children will not be in doubt – because there will be $5 million put aside. And those monies – $5 million and $5 million – would come from this bonus bid.

While the “people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children” can’t take that $5 million to the bank – only the legislature can appropriate – what they can take to the bank is proof, given to us today by the 3 yes votes, that corporate coal money reigns supreme over their water, their lives, their farms, their ranches and their children.

by jhwygirl

Inquiring minds are wondering. Tomorrow’s Land Board meeting may provide the answer, as the state’s executive branch (Gov. Schweitzer, Sec. of State Linda McCulloch, Attorney General Steve Bullock, State Auditor Monica Lindeen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau) consider whether to lower the minimum bid for the Otter Creek coal tracts.

Most readers may recall that the Land Board, after delaying the vote in November, went ahead and approved the leases (sans Denise Juneau’s vote), back in December.

But not before listening (for the upteenth time) to hours of opponent testimony that ranged from environmentalists, tribal members and ranchers who will be directly affected by the rape of the land, litany of industry lies, and the permanent assault on both the environment and private property rights.

Their testimony of which, notably, was kept to a 3-minute time limit while proponents representing big coal interests (the Montana Coal Council) and the only likely leaser (Great Northern/Arch Coal) were allowed to ramble on. Watch the video in JC’s post on Otter Creek to hear what one opponent had to say about that treatment.

And not before adding a .15/ton bonus to the minimum bid recommendation, which was, perhaps not so ironically, arrived at through negotiation with the only potential leaser Great Norther/Arch Coal.

So it should be no surprise that the only potential bidder on the coal is whining about the minimum bid. Which, speaking of – it’s a little ridiculous to call this a bid process, IMNSHO. It sorta creates an image that there is the potential for the bid to go higher – that someone else might place a bid. Which isn’t the case here.

~~~~~~
The level to which we find our electeds here in Montana kowtowing to corporate interests all in worship to the almighty – yet elusive – “business” and “jobs” still astounds me. Proponents say that these tracts will create massive numbers of jobs, yet the total of all 5 working coal mines here in Montana doesn’t employ even 1,000 people. Factor in that the highest paid of those jobs go to out-of-state engineers and corporate big dogs, and that number becomes even lower. Mining is highly automated – and is becoming more and more automated with larger and larger machines.

The level of corporate kowtowing won’t stop with a lower of the bid price – if they do it….it’ll continue with a tromping of private property rights over those of (yep, you guess it) the developer Great Northern Arch Coal.

Certain members of the Land Board (no sense in calling anyone out in particular, and yes, Denise Juneau can be exempted here) have gone through great pains through the several hearings on Otter Creek to say that “this isn’t about the rail road” and “this isn’t about the actual mine – what we’re talking about here is just the lease” as if leasing the tracts doesn’t bring the other two.

In federal language, this is called “connected actions” and this is where federal agencies often meet their legal woes. Simply put, actions that are a result of the intended outcome must be considered.

In this previous post, titled Montana GOP leaders support federal condemnation for Otter Creek, I explained how the railroad will require condemnation (i.e., eminent domain takings) of private property. Whether the railroad will be looked at as a common carrier has yet to be seen, but even if that doesn’t occur, state law can and will be used in an attempt to condemn for that railroad.

Great Northern/Arch Coal will use MCA 70.30.102 – using a pretty wide interpretation of “public uses” (since the only one truly benefiting from the railroad will be Great Northern/Arch Coal) – to condemn private property to build this railroad. A railroad that will help Arch Coal move its Wyoming coal more cheaply to markets both east and west.

And before any wingers go screaming “tax revenue” as a public use, let me remind you of the Kelo case (which is linked to within the condemnation piece above).

I’ll also remind you that the private property of Kelo, condemned in the Kelo case, still sits unused by a now bankrupt private entity that had successfully gained the property through eminent domain.

Yessiree, this Otter Creek is one big mess. The Land Board added the .15/ton bonus payment saying it wouldn’t sell the coal cheaply. That the kids would benefit (McCulloch had some constitutional blackout with that one, since only the legislature can appropriate). Even the Good Gov has long said he would not sell Otter Creek cheaply.

We’ll see, won’t we.

~~~~~~~~
For those of you interested, you can watch the Land Board hearing live by watching it on TVMT (Channel 67 here in Missoula, other channel listings for around the state can be found here.)

You could also stream it live from the state’s website, links which can be found here, at the top of the page.

Oddly – and even the Land Board’s website is pretty clear about this – the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio or video of the Land Board meetings. This is opposite the very efficient and public-information friendly legislative branch who archives not only audio and video from years past sessions, but committee meetings along with the written minutes.

SO – if you want to watch the Land Board hearing, you best set 4 or 5 hours on the DVR or VCR to tape, or catch it live. Because after that, it’s only a memory. Of course, a month later you can read the typed minutes, but those aren’t complete transcriptions.

Nothing like seeing your elected officials in action, peeps.

~~~~~~
In closing – please take the time to call or email the Land Board members tonight…or before 9 a.m. tomorrow. Tell them that leasing that coal at a lower price further perpetuates corporate welfare.

Also, don’t just listen to me – read Button Valley’s 2 most recent Otter Creek-related posts: Value of school children plummets and “If not now, when? If not us, who?”. You can also search the term “otter” over there for a whole wealth of informative posts on Otter Creek.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

by jhwygirl


Bryce Bennett hasn’t officially announced his run for Montana House District 92 yet – that comes at 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday at the Worden House at 328 East Pine – yet he’s already received the endorsement of state Superintendent of Public Instruction (and currently 4&20 b’bird ranked #1 Democrat in the state) Denise Juneau:

“Bryce Bennett has dedicated his career to making Montana a better place for everyone. A more convincing demonstration of leadership would be hard to find, and it’s a type of leadership badly needed in the Montana legislature.”

I like Bryce for a number of reasons, and one of ’em is that he has experience working in Helena, already. Bryce saw the nuts-and-bolts of the place while working in the 2009 legislative session for the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committees. That’s pretty big for me – and it’s a great way to hit the ground running…..especially when you consider that many head to Helena having not even attending a legislative hearing, yet alone read a piece of legislation. With that alone, Bryce is ahead of the curve.

Bryce enters the race to pick up Robin Hamilton’s seat, who has announced he won’t be running.

I do like Bennett’s comments on Juneau’s endorsement. They sum up some of the reasons why he is running…why he is worthy of your vote and why Denise is awesome:

Denise is someone I admired during her campaign and even more since she took office last year. She and I both care deeply for our education system and know that we can invest in no greater resource than the future of Montana students. We also share a passion for protecting the environment for future generations and I applaud her recent vote against allowing new coal mining in our state at Otter Creek.

For more information on Bryce Bennett’s campaign, check out his website.

by jhwygirl

The Otter Creek leases were approved today on a 4-1 vote, with Denise Juneau, State Superintendent of Public Instruction the lone dissent vote.

Denise Juneau is a visionary for the land and trust stewardship in Montana. Many people have nothing but thanks for her today after her dissent.

Big Sky High School students, too, were there to provide testimony, and they were fabulous. I’m glad that Missoulians were so well represented.

The Button Valley Bugle tries to put some lipstick on it, explaining that there will be other opportunity to comment on other phases. Me? I’m not up to it.

The Editor also points to the “bonus” payment, an amendment offered by Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – and increase of .15/ton over the minimum bid of .10/ton. This “bonus” payment is to go directly to the schools, over and above the funding for K-12 that is set by the legislature.

As BVB points out, whether the legislature is going to be OK with that is another thing…..

It all sounds good upfront, huh? A bonus payment to the schools of what I think Bullock referred to as $35,000,000 (and feel free to correct). It’ll be interesting to see how that all works out since in practical terms, the legislature is just going to fund the schools the barest of minimums, knowing that that extra cash is coming in to actually fund the schools in a meaningful way. Beyond that, a “bonus fund” seems ripe for corruption – kinda like how the federal government was found out in their own oil and minerals revenues department.

Make no mistake – that “bonus” payment is intended to buy the silence of the citizens – “it’s for the schools,” and “it’s for the children,” how can anyone object? What’s a little arsenic in the water? What’s a billion tons of CO2?

Is this a precedent? Will we see this with every project that brings out packed hearings and reams of paper in objection to the project? Screw degradation, well call the “bonus” payment mitigation.

Meh.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Today the minimum bid was set for the coal lease. That minimum bid is 10 cents, with an over-and-above bonus payment of 15 cents per ton. The bid period is 45 days.

Much of the criticism was concerning the value of the coal. Theoretically, you’d think that the minimum price set for that coal was the going market rate, right? I mean, the state wouldn’t sell its stuff under market, right? So it’ll be interesting to see how quick Arch Coal grabs at a minimum bid that is now essentially 250% of what is presumably the market price.

In other words, if they jump at that price, one has to wonder whether the state was indeed – as some had suggested – subsidizing the industry.

45 days or so will tell.

Not only that – but the legislature can argue that the minimum bid was guaranteed by the “bonus” payment, robbing the legislature of the full amount of funds that should be available for legislative funding since anyone bidding on the coal was unable to avoid the “bonus” payment.

Time may tell a lot of things, I guess.

(jhwygirl) Public comment for the proposed leasing of the state’s Otter Creek coal closes soon. A public hearing, continued from last month, is next Monday. I question our state’s commitment to green energy. You don’t pull a billion tons of coal out of the ground to look at it. Coal is filthy. Someone’s burning it somewhere. Ironically, Otter Creek is an area identified as viable for wind energy. The Button Valley Bugle (who has been on a roll lately) reminds us that some dogs are best left sleeping.

Anne Millbrooke, of Bozeman, has done a lovely job at touching at the myriad of issues surrounding the decision on whether to lease the coal tracts. I thank Anne for sharing her letter to our State Land Board, which is comprised of Governor Schweitzer, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, Attorney General Steve Bullock, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, and State Auditor Monica Lindeen:

Dear Montana Land Board:

As the state’s website says, the Montana Land Board oversees more than five million acres of school trust lands in order to generate revenue for the trust — for schools in the state. But the task is not simply economic. Inherent in public education are responsibilities for the health and well being of the students and the future of the students. That is why the Land Board should carefully consider all decisions about coal lands.

The environmental damage and health consequences of mining and burning coal are enormous, and the projected 40-year life of the proposed Otter Creek mines means any contemporary decision to lease coal lands binds the future to a dirty-energy infrastructure.

Otter Creek is the decision at hand. There are options for revenue that do not required strip mining the land and polluting air, land, and water, and the associated negative impacts on the health and well-being of children. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean: step by step, decision by decision, we should be going green.

Furthermore, Otter Creek is not about jobs, nor the economic health of Montana families. According to the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council website, the five big strip mines and the new underground mine in the state employ a total of only 1008 people. The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation estimated in its June fact sheet that two proposed mines on Otter Creek lands would employ fewer than 500 people. Coal mining is highly mechanized. It is not labor intensive. The poorest counties in the poor state of West Virginia have coal mines: corporate coal takes the local resources to enrich distant stakeholders.

In the big picture, Otter Creek is not really even about revenue. The nearly $6 million coal revenue reported for 2008 is helpful, but it is a very small percent of the school funding in Montana. Coal mining is not funding our schools, and not mining will not financially break our schools.

By treaty and ethics, the State of Montana has responsibility for the young people of the indigenous tribes of Montana. A few jobs will not compensate for the negative impacts on Native Americans and their lands. Coal’s negative impacts on Native Americans are fact, as recorded in the documentary film “Power Paths” about the Navajo experience with coal.

Montana’s state lands are held in trust, for perpetuity, not for a limited revenue stream. There is a responsibility to protect the land in trust. Yet reclamation remains more promise than reality in lands already disturbed by coal mining, and much of the restoration done has not been to natural habitat.

The out-of-state corporation that holds an in-state railroad monopoly and the out-of-state coal corporation that wants Otter Creek coal could take the educational, economic, environmental viability and sustainability of coal development beyond state’s borders and perhaps beyond the state’s control and regulation.

There is even a question whether development would happen, or whether the coal corporation simply wants to acquire the rights as a immediate tax maneuver and for possible development someday in the future under the financial and regulatory terms of this depressed economy. According to the Trust Land Management Division’s 2008 Annual Report, there are currently 29 coal leases, but only four producing leases. I think the coal industry has plenty of reserves on hold without acquiring the leases to more state lands.

Coal need not be developed at Otter Creek, where the wind blows mightily; for example, the school trust lands could become fields of wind turbines. Now is the time to transition away from coal, not the the time to expand the dirty-energy infrastructure in Montana. Mining Otter Creek coal — with current technology — would not teach our children well about living in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, and it would harm the health of school children near the mines as well as downstream and downwind of the mines and coal-fired plants burning the coal.

Building new dirty-energy infrastructure designed to operate for 40 years is not in Montana’s interest in terms of the health and education of school children, the sustainability of local economies, clean air and water, and respect for downstream and downwind neighbors of the mines and the coal-fired plants to be fueled by Montana coal.

Please understand that Otter Creek has potential beyond coal and that coal lands should not be leased lightly. High environmental standards for any coal operations in Montana are necessary. Regulation and enforcement are necessary. But coal development is not necessary.

Yes, coal is a reality in our existing energy structure. Any new coal mining to support the existing infrastructure during our transition to clean-energy technologies, and any coal burning, should require CO2 sequestration. Coal seams sequester CO2 naturally. Mining and burning coal releases the CO2. The cost of developing and using new sequestration techniques will be offset by savings in terms of the health and in terms of the environment. Any plant burning Montana coal should be sequestering CO2 — by terms of contract as required by the State of Montana.

It is time to move beyond our historical reliance upon coal. In a popular and accurate analogy, we live in a global coal mine. We have since the 19th century. Now the “canaries” are dying: frog, bee, and bat populations are plummeting around the world, and those deaths are but symptoms of the larger problem of polluting our planet, our state, our homes. It’s time to clean-up our act, step by step, decision by decision.

Montana’s students need a clean, healthy environment in which to live and learn. They need a sustainable economy in which some day to work. They need to grow and learn in a setting with sustainable energy more than they need royalties from another coal lease. Please remember this as you consider appropriate use of Otter Creek and other trust lands.

by Pete Talbot

Dear President-elect Obama,

I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver our three electoral votes to you. You worked hard for them. You visited the state and talked western policy. You set up offices and hired staff and had the best ground game I’ve ever seen. John McCain never set foot in Montana.

You came close — only 12,136 votes separated you from McCain. And compared to the 20-point win that George W. Bush had here four years ago, what you did was miraculous.

I’m still scratching my head, though. In almost every other statewide category, Montana went blue: senator, governor and all four tier b’s (unseating the sole Republican incumbent with a new secretary of state). And two-out-of-three newly-elected PSC commissioners are Democrats.

Another confusing example is Gallatin County. I hoped for better numbers from there. It did, after all, almost go for Sen. Tester in 2006 (Burns won by less than 200 votes). But this year, Obama goes down by over 1400. Perhaps Barack should work on a flattop haircut for 2012. Even Gallatin County voted for you, by a 1609 vote margin.

I don’t believe race was a factor. I think most Montanans who voted for McCain did so because of issues like taxes or defense or the “experience” card or some ingrained conservative Christian belief.

And guns played a role. Even though you came to Montana and assured us you wouldn’t take away our guns, ugly rumors persisted. Next time through, make sure to get that ubiquitous firearm photo op.

We wish you well, Mr. President, and may you bring people together to help solve the numerous problems facing our country. Godspeed.

An unpleasant aside

After saying race wasn’t a factor, well, you still run into this: On my way to Bozeman on election day, I stopped by the Cardwell Store, there between Whitehall and Three Forks, for a cup of coffee and a Slim Jim. Two good-old-boys were at the counter and one said, “I better go vote.” To which the other said, “Yeah, I’d hate to see this election get nigger-rigged.”

I’m not even sure what he meant but I left my merchandise on the counter and walked out. Came up with some really choice things I should have said about five miles down the road.

Now I’m sure that everyone in Cardwell isn’t an ignorant racist pig but I won’t be stopping by again, ever, to find out.

It’s a sad anecdote, but there’s one good thing about it; the guy was old and will soon be dead.

I love Missoula

On a more upbeat note: Missoula delivers. One or two flies in the ointment: that HD-100 race where Willis Curdy is losing by a measly 33 votes to Republican incumbent Bill Nooney (provisional votes still being counted, final results Monday). But that’s democracy; you can choose the anti-education, anti-senior, anti-young person, anti-environment candidate if you want.

Same with SD-7, which has a little bit of Missoula County in it and where veteran lawmaker Paul Clark lost to anti-government zealot Greg Hinkle.

Otherwise it was a sweep: Gutsche over Mood for the PSC, the improbable county commissioner outcome, nine-out-of-ten state reps, and two state senators.

The Emergency Operations Center Bond going down wasn’t really a surprise. With property taxes in the mail and it being a slow economy and all, folks are tightening their belts. In better times, I think it would have passed. It also wasn’t one of the strongest campaigns I’ve seen run in this town.

Ravalli County blues

Is it too harsh to recommend a toll booth at the Ravalli/Missoula County line? Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning. Maybe we could funnel the toll revenue into preserving Ravalli County open space, while there’s still some left.

I know that there are progressives in Ravalli County but time-and-time again their issues and candidates get hammered.

Both West Fork Blues and Rebecca have excellent comments on the results in the Bitterroot.

Statewide conundrum

Despite Democratic wins in most of the big-ticket races, the Montana House is tied and the senate losses seats (R’s 27-D’s 23). Throw in a Democratic governor and I smell gridlock. But maybe not, lots of talk from candidates of all stripes wanting to “reach across the aisle.” We’ll see.

I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?

We’re a two party country

Third parties didn’t fare well. Libertarian Don Eisenmenger received about 7 percent in the OPI race, which I believe was the party’s best showing. Presidential candidate Bob Barr got 0.3 percent. In the U.S. House race, perennial candidate Mike Fellows got 3 percent, and Stan Jones got 2 percent in the governor’s race.

For Constitution Party candidates, Ron Paul got slightly over 2 percent in the presidential race. That party’s best showing was in Missoula County with Kandi Matthew-Jenkins getting a little better than one-third of the votes against Cliff Larson in SD 50 (there was no Republican in that contest). And in the SOS race, Sieglinde Sharbono received around 3.5 percent.

Nadar’s Independent ticket garnered slightly less than 1 percent.

And finally

Who ever thought we’d have a president with a name like Barack Obama? It pales in comparison, though, to the candidate from HD-15 — my favorite name on the ballot — Frosty Boss Calf Ribs. I’ve met some of the Boss Calf Ribs clan up in the Browning area but don’t know Frosty, who was unopposed. Kind of makes our Anglo names like John Smith and Jane Doe seem rather lame. Congratulations, Frosty.

by Pete Talbot

Endorsements

Please take these thoughtful endorsements from Planned Parenthood’s action committee into consideration when you vote:

… We are days away from an historic election here in Montana and we want to help you participate in that process.

Evaluating a candidate’s voting history, her PPAM (Planned Parenthood Activists of Montana) candidate questionnaire, or interviewing him personally, PPAM has endorsed and/or recommended 64 statewide and local candidates.

Check out our webpage at www.ppamt.org for the full listing by community.

A special shout-out to the following statewide and judicial candidates who are a top priority for Planned Parenthood:

Steve Bullock, Attorney General

Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public Schools

Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court

Monica Lindeen, State Auditor

Linda McCulloch, Secretary of State

Kathy Seeley, First Judicial District Court Judge (Helena-area only)

Planned Parenthood is counting on you, the pro-choice voter, to make a difference in these races. Again, visit www.ppamt.org, share with friends, and vote.”

I’m going to use the ‘S’ word

Socialist. There you go, I said it. And I must be one, too, big time, if that’s what they’re calling Barack Obama. I see Obama’s policies as pretty moderate on: taxes, health care, defense, the economy, the environment …

Takes you back to the good old days of witch hunts and the Red Scare.

Just what are Socialists, anyway? People in Canada, Norway and Australia? Folks in England, France, Germany and our other NATO allies? They seem to be doing as well as anyone these days, economically. Is there something nasty, scary about these governments that I should know about?

A Canadian columnist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto is scratching his head. In a piece entitled, “An election on Socialism, without a Socialist in sight:”

” … Socialism is not defined by state intervention in an economy. All states intervene in the economy, the United States more than most. It busts open foreign markets, fights for global resources (such as oil), controls labour militancy, develops new products (such as the Internet), which it then hands off to business. Above all, its military spending fuels its economy, and has for generations. Bank bailouts fit like a hand in a glove.”

Barack Obama is not a Socialist, he just happens to have different policies than Bush/McCain.

Knock it off

Everybody. Please.

Most Montana campaigns start off pretty tame, with the candidates explaining why people should vote for them. But as we get closer to election day, the gloves come off and folks get nasty. Witness today’s flurry of accusations and counter charges:

Attorney general candidate Tim Fox being smeared by the Montana Democratic Party (granted, Fox’s opponent, Steve Bullock, got smeared earlier by the Republicans). Then there are the radio attack ads against Linda McCulloch, Democratic candidate for secretary of state. And, of course, supporters of Republican OPI candidate Elaine Sollie Herman and the campaign’s “professional Indian” and “young Indian” comments, directed at Democratic candidate Denise Juneau.

Who approves these ads and innuendo, anyway? Erik Iverson, Montana Republican Party Chairman; Dennis MacDonald, the Montana Democratic Party Chairman; someone higher up the food chain; or some boneheaded, overpaid, beltway consultant?

Montanans deserve better. It makes me want to puke slugs.

by Pete Talbot

Stang out

Judy Stang (S.D. 7) is ending her write-in bid and throwing her support behind the Democratic candidate, Paul Clark. This is good news. Ms. Stang lost a tight primary race to Mr. Clark and then filed as a write in. She has since withdrawn her write-in campaign, which had the potential to peel away votes from Clark and help elect far-right Republican Greg Hinkle. Thanks, Judy. (Curse you, jhwygirl, you scooped me by 18 minutes.)

Pink eye

Driving across the state last weekend, I was assaulted, time-after-time, by huge, pink apparitions. Turned out they were Elaine Sollie Herman (Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction) billboards. I’ve got to admit, they’re eye catching (in a Mary Kay sort of way) and she has a lot of them up. I’m not sure it will be enough to defeat Democrat Denise Juneau in this three-way race. Juneau has campaigned hard across the state and done well at fund raising, too.

Hightower in Helena

If you’ve never seen author, radio personailty and the former Texas Agriculture Commissioner in the flesh, it would be worth your while to head over to the Capital City this Friday evening. Jim Hightower (billed on his website as “America’s #1 Populist”) will be speaking at 7:30 p.m. on October 24 in the Oriental Room at the Great Northern Hotel (which is a little bit north of Last Chance Gulch). I saw him twice in Missoula in the 1990’s. He’s witty and thoughtful, and will speak to “what can be done to put things right in America after eight years of Bush.” The event is sponsored by the Progressive Democrats of Montana and it will cost you $20 at the door.




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