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2024 Montana Primary elections
Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Regulators hear public comments on including climate change in their decision-making

State utility regulators Monday heard public testimony on a petition asking them to consider climate change impacts as part of their decision-making.

The petition asks Montana’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to measure the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change, as part of their work regulating utility companies that power homes and businesses.

A coalition of environmental groups, breweries, ski resorts, college students, doctors and more filed the petition in February and spoke to the PSC in a special hearing.

Among them was Hirum Towle, the general manager of Bridger Bowl Ski Area.

“This year, Bridger started the season on the lowest snowpack in their history, Teton Pass opened for only four days before they had to close for the entire season, Blacktail had their latest opening in history and all ski areas suffered in some way from this dry and warm season,” Towle said.

Fifty people spoke in support of the PSC considering climate change in its decisions.

Barbara Chillcott, a lawyer for the petitioners, said the agency is violating its constitutional obligation to uphold Montanan’s right to a healthy environment.

“The commission must consider these impacts to bring its regulation of Montana utilities in line with its constitutional mandate,” Chillcott said.

Over 25 opponents including fossil fuel industry groups spoke in Monday’s meeting. Many said the question of energy sourcing should be decided by the Legislature, not the PSC. Some downplayed concerns of human caused climate change.

Amanda Frickle with the federation of unions, AFL-CIO, said the proposal didn’t include perspectives of people who work in the fossil fuel industries who could lose their jobs in an energy transition.

“We believe this petition fails to promote a just and equitable solution for Montanans and in particular our members and working people across the state,” Frickle said.

The PSC will accept public comment through Friday, April 12.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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