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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

DEQ Hears C02 Concerns In Missoula

Cheri Trusler

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality was in Missoula Thursday night to talk about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It was the last in a series of three public meetings around the state. The agency was explaining the options it’s come up with to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Montana, so the state can meet goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was also taking public comments. Missoula resident Jan Holm said, "If we’re really serious about reducing pollution and addressing climate change, we have to stop burning coal."

Concerns about climate change have the EPA asking states to come up with plans to reduce greenhouse gases. In Montana, the target is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 21 percent by the year 2030.

Tracy Stone-Manning, director of Montana’s DEQ, says feedback on the options her agency has laid out to meet that target got a different reception here than at Tuesday and Wednesday’s forums in Colstrip and Billings.

"In the other locations we heard more concern about the ability to meet this target," Stone-Manning said, "and in Missoula we heard concerns about this target not being tough enough."

Not everyone at the event in Missoula advocated for big reductions in carbon dioxide. Some expressed concerns that doing so would cost coal mining or power plant jobs, and drive up the cost of electricity. DEQ staff explained how they came up with five different potential ways to cut emissions to meet the EPA’s target, and gave time to a panel of interest groups that included Northwest Energy and PPL, the company that operates the Colstrip power plant, as well as organized labor, a solar energy advocate and a representative from Missoula city government.

The EPA is taking public comments on its proposed carbon dioxide rules until December first.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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