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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

President's 'Clean Power Plan' Meets Strong Criticism In Montana

Windmill at the Judith Gap, MT wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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The President's Clean Power Plan calls for a reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 32 percent in Montana by 2030.

The plan the White House unveiled today to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide is meeting with strong and broad criticism in Montana.

That includes Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, who issued a statement today saying he’s "extremely disappointed" in the White House’s Clean Power Plan, because the White House "moved the goal post."

What Bullock means is that the new plan calls for greater reductions in CO2 emissions than it did in its draft Clean Power Plan last year. That plan had a target of cutting 21 percent of the state’s carbon dioxide emissions. The new plan?

"It could be anywhere between about a 32-33 percent to as high as as 47."

That’s Tom Livers, head of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality. He says it’s hard to say exactly how much the state will have to reduce it’s CO2 emissions, because the new Clean Power Plan changes a number of variables.

"It looks like they’ve changed the baseline from the draft rule, so in terms of the reduction we’re working from, that appears to have changed … there’s more changes than just the target itself," Livers says.

The Montana AFL-CIO also says it is "very concerned" about the new clean energy rule. A press release says the labor union is "worried about what this means for the hundreds of working families whose livelihoods depend on the coal industry, the communities that depend on those jobs, Montana’s tax base and the ratepayers that could be impacted by these changes."

Even more critical of the new clean power plan is Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican. He blasted the draft plan when it came out last year, and now says he’s and other attorneys general, many from western states, are considering filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

"They are promulgating rules that turn them from an environmental regulator essentially using a very obscure portion of the Clean Air Act, instead they're trying to impose what we see as a national energy policy through rulemaking," says Fox.

Also strongly critical of the Clean Power Plan were the chairman of Montana’s Public Service Commission, which regulates power companies and utilities, and the Republican members of Montana’s congressional delegation, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Ryan Zinke.

But environmental and health groups praised the new plan. Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center says it’s reasonable to set tougher thresholds for carbon dioxide emissions here, and the Montana Chapter of the American Lung Association said it will prevent 3,600 premature deaths by 2030.

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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