Apparently the Legislature’s accepted wisdom about coal is that Montanans will be happy to tear up our state to send coal to China. If the aquifer is depleted or poisoned, if ranchland is rendered useless, if private property is condemned for infrastructure projects, if wildlife habitat is ruined, if the quality of our air deteriorates, if long coal trains disturb life in Montana communities, the Legislature appears to believe mining that coal for China is worth it.
Now, more than ever, citizens need the protection of the Montana Environmental Policy Act. MEPA requires state agencies to consider the effects of proposed activities on fish and wildlife, cultural resources and historic sites. The law also aims to make information available to the public and to hear what the public has to say. The point of MEPA is better decision making, and we should never lose sight of that.
Senate Bill 233 would undo that process by requiring a state agency to disregard information gathered through the MEPA process when making a decision about a permit or other state approval. Along the way, the bill would weaken the effect of citizen input into the process. SB 233 would ensure that the state is no longer standing up for its citizens when out-of-state companies want to extract coal and ship it across the Pacific Ocean.
Urge your legislators to vote no on SB 233, and ask the governor to act to save MEPA as it is.