The Billings Outpost

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Daines shills for coal

Steve Daines claims he wants to represent Montana in the Senate. He claims that he wants what is best for Montana. He claims that coal will be good for Montana. Well, Daines is either poorly informed or cheerleading for the coal industry. He is running for senator claiming to want to work for Montana citizens; yet instead, he supports the wealthy owners of coal industry.

The Montana economy is strong and our unemployment rate is low. The number of jobs that coal provides to Montanans is minimal. The largest percentile of income in the state is earned by farming and ranching.  After those is tourism.

Yet coal extraction harms these important industries. It is also dwindling as a source of our nation’s energy. The only new market for coal is in Asia. This is why coal companies are now considered poor investments.

Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee wants to eliminate coal as a source of his state’s energy. In time that state will stop buying power from Colstrip.  Let’s face it - coal is the energy source of the past. It is the greatest contributor to climate change, which we are finally addressing as a nation with new environmental rules requiring upgrades to coal-fired energy plants.

Yet Daines shills for this diminishing, dirty and damaging industry. The future of energy is in renewable energy, which provides jobs for Montanans across the state. With less coal mining in the future more clean energy and jobs develop. This fact renders the argument that coal provides jobs wrong. Yet Daines continues to praise coal. Who is he really working for?

Deb Fischer


Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:40

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Worries about water

Concern over water is as old as the West itself. Now, with oil and gas companies like Energy Corp. of America drilling wells in Stillwater and Carbon counties, the potential for water contamination in our communities should not be ignored.

Real threats to our water from oil and gas development exist even without considering deep aquifer contamination. The oil and gas industry claims cement lining a well past the depth of groundwater prevents the chemicals in fracturing fluid and oil from contaminating the surrounding surface groundwater.

What the industry fails to mention is how frequently these “well casings” fail. Cracks in a well’s cement lining can happen right away, or after the well has been operating a while. By looking at one’s own driveway it’s easy to see how readily cement cracks. Yet, the oil and gas industry would have us ignore our eyes and simply trust them that cement in wells won’t crack and won’t allow chemicals to leak into our groundwater. The destruction of communities like Butte should remind us that corporations seeking profit at the expense of communities should not simply be trusted to protect water.

The importance of protecting our groundwater from contamination is clear: without clean, available water, our communities would not survive. Oil and gas development, and the process of hydraulic fracturing, threaten our water. To protect our rural way of life, we cannot allow oil and gas companies to contaminate one of our most precious resources. Also threatening is the amount of water development consumes!

Lana Sangmeister


Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:53

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Renewable energy makes sense

Right now, Montana’s lawmakers are reviewing the Renewable Energy Standard, which requires utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy they buy. But they are trying to fix something that isn’t broken.  Renewable energy is a great buy for Montana. Power from the wind farm at Judith Gap, for example, is cheaper than electricity from Colstrip. That’s a fact. NorthWestern has reported it, and the Public Service Commission has recorded it.

And actually, solar is cheaper too. I know because I just bought solar photovoltaic panels for my house — which I am installing myself — and they are going to pay for themselves in six years. After that, I am going to have free electricity for at least 20 years.

The reason why some legislators want to mess with the Renewable Energy Standard, I suspect, is not because clean energy isn’t working, it’s because the coal lobby is running scared. Some rich people have a lot of money invested in coal, and things are not looking good for coal right now. PPL is trying to sell its share of Colstrip to NorthWestern, but when NorthWestern crunched the numbers, it turned out that Colstrip had a negative value. That’s right. The economics of coal are so bad, PPL would actually have to pay NorthWestern money before NorthWestern would “buy” Colstrip.

If it isn’t broken, the Legislature shouldn’t try to fix it. The Renewable Energy Standard is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for ratepayers.

Wade Sikorski


Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:52

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Reject Keysyone XL pipeline

When is somebody going to tell the truth about the Keystone XL pipeline? Again and again I hear how it is vital to our national energy security.  What a bunch of malarkey! Has anybody considered why this pipeline is going to deliver that Alberta crude to Gulf Coast refineries. The refined product will all be loaded on tankers for export. China will be the recipient of much of it, I suspect. Once this pipeline is built, all we’ll have left is a very small number of jobs and the risk to our environment. Oh, Texas and Louisiana will probably get some extra road oil and mountains of sand that will be difficult to dispose of. Let’s see it for what it really is, and it isn’t good for the USA!

John Johnson


Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:51

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Promises not kept

It was interesting to read of the morality of the current White House in a letter in March. He got us out of the futile war of Iraq, leaving about 10,000 155mm warheads, each with a gallon of Sarin gas capable of killing 10,000 people. These, originally 20,100, were transferred to Afghanistan and Al Qaida where the 10,000 or so were destroyed at Tora Bora.

The car industry has been bailed out before by the taxpayers. The question here is have they really paid back the taxpayer or not? If so, where is the proof?

The White House did not eliminate Osama Bin Laden, it only gave approval to the many special ops men who had been practicing for months. The most highly trained warriors, DEVGRU, planned and executed a fine operation and produced the corpse of the most wanted man in the world. The fact is that Ayman Zawahiri fingered Bin Laden (to the CIA?) because he wanted to head Al Qaeda and so wanted him dead. These two were behind the attacks against the U.S. and Coalition troops with the WMDs that Saddam had hidden out and transferred to Al Qaeda.

The first gas attack occurred in April 2003 and there have been more than 600 reported attacks since, all of which have been downplayed by said White House and the media. This was exposed by leaks by a service man and Wiki. Bin Laden was the money man and Zawahiri was the brains in converting the 155mm shells to usable WMDs.

What is going to happen when Al Qaeda finds another brain and another financier? Remember they still have 10,000 of those warheads.

Unemployment has decreased because of those leaving the lists. What are the actual unemployed numbers? Fifteen, 18 or 20 percent? Most new jobs listed are part time due to the many policies forced upon business by this administration. Is small business a criminal activity that needs to be crushed and punished for believing in free enterprise?

The economy? Has no one noticed the rise in prices of everything? Have you noticed that plans to ship oil through pipelines has been quashed at the cost of thousands of jobs? Where are the jobs that can support a family? Why are there plans to cut the military when everybody and their brother wants to destroy this country and its stand on freedom and individual liberty?

Health care? How long until it implodes from devouring trillions of worthless dollars? Promises? Harrumph!

Keith Babcock


Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:50

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Curb carbon pollution

Recently, Gov. Steve Bullock received a letter signed by more than 50 Montana health professionals from across the state. The letter asks Gov. Bullock and his administration to strongly support proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

The reasons are simple: Discharge of toxins and carbon from coal burning plants are causing health problems and climate change, which also carries serious health impacts.

Currently, there are no limits on how much carbon power plants are allowed to emit. However, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the Clean Air Act, has proposed limits on such emissions from future power plants and is expected to propose limits on carbon pollution from existing plants in June.

The physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and others who signed the letter to Gov. Bullock understand how coal burning plants are already worsening Montanans’ health. The public health will only worsen if we don’t take action to limit carbon pollution and slow climate change.

We also understand that the voice of industry and its allies is loud and strong, and there’s a danger of public health impacts being ignored or overshadowed by heated rhetoric. We can’t let that happen – Montana’s healthy future is too important.

Polluters have always resisted Clean Air Act rules, yet the Act’s 40-year history shows – time-after-time – that cleaning up our air and reducing toxic emissions saves lives and billions of dollars in health care spending. People want – and deserve – clean, healthy air.

In the case of coal-burning plants, there are no limits at all on current carbon emissions. It’s essential to public health that we reduce the amount of carbon that goes into our air.

Carbon pollution and climate change are already having measurable impacts on health. Scientists have shown that the buildup of carbon pollution in our atmosphere creates higher temperatures, which has in turn increased the frequency exposure to ozone, unhealthy smog levels and extreme weather events, including more floods, drought and longer, more intense wildfire seasons.

In Montana we’ve witnessed the health impacts of larger and more frequent wildfires during recent years, with our pulmonologists seeing more children in respiratory distress due to smoky air. More wildfires are especially risky for children with asthma and older adults with COPD.

Higher levels of smog (ozone) also mean more adult and childhood asthma attacks and complications for those with lung disease. Children are more susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing, they breathe more air per pound of body weight and they often spend more time outdoors when compared to adults.

Others who are suffering health problems due to climate impacts include people struggling with heart disease, allergies, diabetes and obesity, as well as athletes and seniors.

According to a bipartisan survey by the American Lung Association, most voters support efforts to update our clean air protections. An astounding 72 percent of voters specifically want limits on power plant carbon pollution.

That same survey shows that 73 percent of voters don’t buy into industry’s “false choice” that we must choose between public health and a strong economy – we can achieve both. By a two-to-one majority, voters believe that strengthening safeguards against pollution will create, not destroy, jobs by encouraging innovation. The cost savings in terms of health care expenditures alone will make clean-up of toxic emissions financially feasible.

Reducing carbon pollution, coupled with steps being taken to cut other dangerous power plant pollution such as soot, mercury and other toxics, will protect public health, improve efficiency and encourage innovation.

As healthcare professionals who value our state’s healthy air, and spend our careers safeguarding the health of people in Montana, we urge Gov. Bullock and other state leaders to support the reduction of carbon pollution in Montana.

Dr. Paul Smith, Missoula

Dr. Colette Kirchhoff, Bozeman

Dr. Lori Byron, Hardin

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:49

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