Montana Public Radio

Montana Environmental Information Center

Drinking fountain.
Joseph Thomas Photography / iStock

Montana got a failing grade from a national environmental study group Thursday for its lack of policies addressing lead in public schools. 

The second edition of Environment America’s "Get the Lead Out" report, says Montana also received an "F" last time the organization surveyed a number of states, in 2017.

Tonight on Capitol Talk: State lawmakers are buckling-down on a number of issues, including increased oversight of non-profit schools for troubled teens; what infrastructure projects to support or reject; what to cut or support in the health department; and whether ratepayers should bear the burden of keeping Colstrip's coal plant going.

Learn more now on Capitol Talk.

Colstrip power plant, Colstrip Montana.
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

A plan to allow the state’s largest electric utility to buy a bigger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip is taking a new form. The so-called Montana Energy Security Act of 2019 was introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature.

Hours after senators voted to table a prior proposal to allow NorthWestern Energy to buy more of Colstrip and pass along certain costs to their customers for up to 30 years, a similar idea landed in the hopper.

Study: Proposed Copper Mine Won't Harm Popular Montana River

Mar 11, 2019
Black Butte Copper Project, project facilities site plan.
Montana DEQ

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials said Monday that a copper mine proposed along a tributary of one of Montana's most popular recreational rivers would cause the river no harm, a conclusion that conservationists question and say will reinvigorate opposition to the plan.

Montana Republican Senator Duane Ankney.
Nick Mott / MTPR

Following a trip to Washington, D.C. arranged by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana lawmaker said he’s 65-percent confident a White House plan to subsidize coal-fired power plants will succeed. Colstrip Sen. Duane Ankney says he discussed the idea of helping coal compete with renewables and natural gas with the U.S. Department of Energy.

NorthWestern Releases Plan To Expand Power Generation

Mar 5, 2019
NorthWestern Energy truck.
Sue Ginn / Montana Public Radio

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — NorthWestern Energy released a plan Tuesday to more than double how much power it can generate for Montana customers during peak demand. But critics worry the company will rely too much on fossil fuels and not enough on renewable resources to complete the expansion.

Judge: US Must Reconsider Climate Impacts Of Montana Mine

Feb 12, 2019
Coal train
(PD)

BILLLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials have again been faulted by a federal judge for failing to adequately consider the potential climate change effects of expanding a massive coal mine in the sagebrush-covered hills of southeastern Montana.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan recommended in a Monday ruling that the Interior Department be given 240 days to re-analyze the expansion.

Another Republican joins the 2020 race for governor. Republicans may be open to borrowing money for infrastructure projects — with a catch. A proposal for the state to buy a coal-fired power plant gets a rocky reception. Why passing new taxes could get harder. And a new poll shows the power of independent voters in Montana. Learn more now on "Capitol Talk" with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Corin Cates-Carney.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

Lawmakers in Helena are starting to debate whether the state could borrow up to $500 million to buy the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip

The future of the plant is up in the air. The West Coast consumers who Colstrip sends most of its power to are pushing away from coal-powered electricity due to climate change concerns. Coal power is also becoming more expensive relative to electricity generated by natural gas and renewables.

The 2017 order by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that lifted the Obama-era moratorium on federal coal leasing.
Department of the Interior

A federal judge in Great Falls Thursday heard arguments over whether the Trump administration lawfully lifted a ban on coal leasing federal lands.

The Department of the Interior lifted the Obama-era moratorium on federal coal leasing in early 2017, fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise to end the so-called war on coal.

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