Montana is in the midst of an important conversation about coal. Our state holds significant reserves of this fossil fuel, which over the decades has helped boost Montana’s economy via mining and exports and to power our nation via the coal-fired plants in Colstrip. There’s no question that coal is an important part of Montana’s history.
Yet, we’ve now reached a juncture where we must discuss how coal fits into our future. There’s great interest in mining more of this resource in our state and exporting it overseas. Local communities are concerned about the impact of increased rail traffic as a result. There’s also significant concern about how burning more Montana coal in China and elsewhere will affect our climate.
As physicians, we share these concerns, but also want to address the more immediate effects that the burning of coal has on public health. These hazards are well-documented, but tend not to get the same amount attention as coal’s impact on the larger environment.
Coal-fired power plants do more than cloud the air; they emit toxic pollution that causes illness and death. Toxins emitted by burning coal worsen asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cause heart attacks and strokes, lung and other cancers, and lead to birth defects.
Nationwide, coal-fired plants account for 386,000 tons of dangerous pollutants each year, including acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride, which can burn the eyes, skin and breathing passages, lead, arsenic and other metals that can harm the lungs, kidneys and nervous system, and dioxins, which pose a risk for cancer.
We urge Montanans to learn more about the impacts of coal and their health, in order to insure that the coal’s affects on human health are not overshadowed in the current debates over coal and our state’s role in burning, mining and exporting it.
An informative resource to learn more about these issues is “The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health” by Alan Lockwood, M.D. This book from the MIT Press draws on numerous peer-reviewed studies to examine every aspect of coal, from its complex medical makeup to the health effects of mining, burning, transporting and disposing of this fuel. These are all central issues to Montana residents.
Dr. Lockwood, an emeritus professor of neurology and nuclear medicine at the State University of New York, will speak at 7 p.m. March 18 at Rocky Mountain College, Losekamp Hall, 1511 Poly Drive in Billings. The event is free and open to the public. We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn more about this important topic.
Paul Smith, Missoula
Robert Shepard, Helena
Robert Merchant, Helena
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:24
Wilbur Wood did a great job of writing about climate change dangers and specifying what needs to be done [Outpost, March 7]. In our nation there has been a long silent period of inaction and our children will pay dearly for that selfish indifference.
It is good to see that the Outpost is not silent. Thank you.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:23
Government overreach has become so common lately that people are becoming desensitized to its persistence. Not only are our personal liberties rapidly eroding, but the small business owners and those they employ have felt the effects of an overreaching government.
Over regulation has become a huge problem in the daily operations of small businesses throughout Montana. More frequently, large corporations use the rulemaking process to restrict competition in the marketplace. The additional costs of overregulation can be easily absorbed by large businesses, but small businesses – the economic driver of Montana’s economy — are priced out.
A recent study shows small businesses around the country spend an average of $7,647 each year per employee just to comply with government regulations and mandates. This is a significantly larger sum than what larger businesses pay, which average around $5,282 per year.
For many small businesses the cost to comply can simply run them out of operation. At the very least, it hurts the employees by decreasing the funds allotted for salaries and benefits. While certain regulations are necessary and even beneficial to the function of good business, some regulations imposed by overzealous government bureaucrats have caused our economy to stagnate.
Even President Barack Obama, who is staunchly supportive of more government intervention and regulation, agrees. In January 2011, at a time when our nation’s economy was struggling to shake the effects of the Great Recession, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for regulatory flexibility in order to grow small business and create jobs.
He wrote at the time, “My administration is firmly committed to eliminating excessive and unjustified burdens on small businesses. … Accordingly, I hereby direct executive departments and agencies, when initiating rulemaking that will have significant economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities, to give serious consideration to whether and how it is appropriate, consistent with law and regulatory objectives, to reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses, through increased flexibility.”
At this time during the 2011 legislative session, I introduced SB 201, a bill that would require Montana state agencies to do exactly this: consider the impacts the rulemaking processes has on small businesses in our states. It was hardly a novel concept since 42 other states have required similar considerations. The bill sailed through both the Senate and House with bipartisan support. But, alas, SB 201 and small businesses throughout Montana felt the veto fate of the cruel, red hot branding iron.
Not to be outdone, I decided to try again in 2013 with SB 139. This bill, like its early counterpart, creates an affirmative duty for state agencies to analyze the impacts to small business before passing new rules and regulations. This will not only inform decision makers about the actual adverse and positive effects of the regulation, but it would also create a record upon which small businesses could pursue legal remedy. Protecting small businesses from an over reaching government is paramount in creating jobs and growing Montana’s economy.
Opponents fear that SB 139 would allow businesses to ignore government regulations and not abide by environment or labor laws. This is simply not the case. Small businesses are fully willing to comply with regulations, but want to ensure that they are playing on a level playing field. The act only requires agencies to consider the consequences of their regulations before automatically imposing regulations.
Opponents also contend that SB 139 would require state agencies to spend additional time and funds to study the effects of the rules and regulations. Perhaps this is true, but it is a worthy investment to ensure that small businesses are being treated fairly and ensure their growth is not stunted by harsh regulations. SB 139 will require additional transparency and accountability in government agencies.
SB 139 has passed the Senate and is building momentum as it works its way through the House. Let’s hope that when it reaches Gov. [Steve] Bullock’s desk that he will stand with Montana’s job creators and sign the bill into law.
Sen. Ed Walker
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:22
Concerning the “Racist Joke.”
For one thing, Obama is not officially an “African American.” He is biracial, having had a white (“Anglo”) mother.
I wish I had five bucks for every insult, slur or lie said in my life so far.
As a people, we need to STOP whining about everything today.
Have we forgotten how? We have freedom of speech in the United States as a constitutional right. We might not always like or agree with other people’s thoughts and deeds, but we must accept it — it’s the law of the land.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 12:39
The spirit of George III lives on in America! Given the history of the Colonies, it can be said that the major cause, or at least one of the really major causes of the Revolution was Britton’s attempt at gun control and confiscation.
In the early days of “settling” this country, firearms were a critical part of life. Women and children as well as all men learned how to use these.
Even toddlers were given toy guns and taught how to safely use them. Their rifles provided food, protection and ultimately protection against the tyrants of His Majesty.
The rulers of the time in Britain realized that they had around 3 million armed people in the colonies and they were nervous about the way they were treating the people on this continent. They knew the colonists represented an army far larger than theirs.
After the Boston Tea Party the British Army began a program of favors to those how willingly surrendered their arms. Later they refused to honor their promises. When they realized that program did not work they started the search and seizure method. History shows that when a government has to resort to using its military to enforce its laws nothing good can come from it.
All of these actions cause the colonists to organize and to train and to begin to manufacture fire arms domestically because the King ordered all imports to the colonies suspended. It was all about the inability of a tyrannical government to enforce its will against an armed people.
I am sure one can see the similarities in the handling of the colonists to the efforts now to disarm the law abiding men and women of this nation.
There is an open letter from some Special forces indicating the dangers of gun control and its lack of ability to control crime. This letter may be seen at: http://jpfo.org/articles-assd03/speciual-forces-vote.htm.
A really good exposition on this matter from the Charleston Law Review can be found at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1967702. If we do not learn from history, it will repeat itself!
Last Updated on Friday, 15 February 2013 19:42
Rehberg lied about being a friend of veterans and seniors. He never did anything for vets or seniors. Plus, he said the voters “whine and moan” about all the things that are going wrong in Washington.
Rehberg needs to look at the people who voted for Sen. Tester instead of him. Among them were Democrats, veterans, seniors and even a host of Republicans who would not ever deign to cast a vote for Rehberg.
Rehberg blames Sen.’s Tester and Baucus, the Democrats, unions and various of their allies for his loss. The 2012 election was a good example of what happened in 2006. We had two cry babies, one was Burns and the other, Rehberg - both of whom were sore losers.
And what about that boat wreck? Was he really drunk or just awfully stupid to crash a large boat into the jutting rocks of Flathead Lake?
What about that lawsuit accusing the City of Billings when all the city did was try to put out a fire at his home? And what about that time overseas when he fell off a horse and broke his arm? Was he schnockered then too?
He is truly an embarrassment to all Montanans. About all we Montanans can do is take up a collection and buy him a big crying towel so he can dry his overflowing bitter tears.
Last Updated on Friday, 15 February 2013 19:42