Environmentalists are expressing disappointment in the new Clean Power Plan Advisory Council that Governor Steve Bullock announced today.
The 27-member body includes 17 people either directly tied to the coal-fired energy sector or supportive of it.
Bullock created the advisory council in response to new EPA rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the U.S. The so-called Clean Power Plan assigns each state a numerical limit on CO2 emissions. Under the plan Montana would have to reduce its CO2 emissions by 47 percent by 2030, more than any other state.
Bullock has called the target set for Montana “unfair,” and supports Attorney General Tim Fox joining the state to a lawsuit seeking to halt the Clean Power Plan.
Anne Hedges, Deputy Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, says the new advisory council is unbalanced.
“I think this is a list that represents the past instead of the future," Hedges says. "This is very heavily weighted towards the people who have put us in the position we are in today of needing to reduce emissions.”
She says she is frustrated about the council’s understanding of renewable energy, especially during a time when the use of solar energy is growing.
“I’m not seeing anybody on this list who has really technical knowledge about the solar industry.”
Hedges thinks the absence of public health advocates is an oversight as well, because, she says, concerns about pollution and human health are primary reasons for the call to lower CO2 emissions.
Hedges does like some people Governor Bullock appointed to the council, like former Public Service Commissioner Tom Schneider. But she says this council announcement is, overall, a huge disappointment.
“There are some really great people on this list and we’re really pleased to see them. But they are going to be outvoted if there is voting. They’re going to be outgunned, because you have every fossil fuel developer, nearly, in Montana on here. And very few clean energy producers. And the solutions to carbon pollution are going to come in the forms of clean energy and it would be better to have more of those people involved in this discussion, who can really help the state forward. And I just don't see that here.”
Among those on the council who have opposed the coal industry in Montana are Diego Rivas with the Northwest Energy Coalition, and Pat Sweeney with the Billings-based Western Organization of Resource Councils.