Thursday, July 26, 2012

A numbers game

Posted on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I had the opportunity to read Jessica Mayrer’s latest water rights article titled “Water compact ripples” [July 19] and am not happy with the context of the quote attributed to me.

At the water compact meeting on June 27, I expressed that the very idea of the Unitary Management Ordinance is disconcerting.

Being a non-tribal resident who lives on fee land that happens to fall within the boundaries of the reservation, my biggest concern with the UMO is why my water rights would be administered differently than other residents of the state of Montana? This ordinance represents an unequal application of the constitution and Montana law, just because I happen to live where I do. I don’t recall ever being told my constitutional rights would be compromised because I chose to live here, just like I was never told my water rights could be compromised because of this compact. I am not a tribal member, and I do not live on the Flathead Indian Reservation. I live within the exterior boundaries of the reservation, on fee land, not tribal trust land. The tribe has no jurisdiction over me.

At the compact meeting, I also asked why the tribe was given 40 percent of the representation on the UMO board right off the top, with the potential for a higher percentage, when they only have 18 percent of total population within reservation boundaries? A simple question was asked. All I wanted to know was what logic went behind the proposed makeup of the Unitary Management board. Jessica’s article implied I meant something else, when in fact I did not.

Terry Backs

St. Ignatius

We need a billionaire

Posted on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Our president might make his goal a little easier if Joe Biden would step aside and Barack Obama would name Warren Buffett as his running mate. We all look up to Warren and admire him for admitting that he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes and is willing to increase taxes for himself and all of his fellow billionaires. Who knows, with a bit of luck we might even get the deficit under control.

Peter Daniels

Polson

Fracking is horrible

Posted on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I am a student at Montana State University. I recently wrote a research paper for my environmental history class on hydraulic fracturing. What I found in my research on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing is truly alarming.

In the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s front-page article “Waiting, Worrying: Bureau of Mines Helps Shields Valley Prepare for Fracking,” the basics of the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing and the concept of “split estate” were covered. However, the extreme health implications and the potential chemicals that are used in the fracking chemical mixture were not discussed. Toxic chemicals are used at every stage of development to reach and release gas. Dr. Theo Colborn, president of the Endocrine Disruption Association and former advising panelist at the Environmental Protection Agency, has collected data on the formerly unknown chemicals used by the fracking industry and the wide-ranging health effects caused by these chemicals. The Endocrine Disruption Network reports that 25 percent of the chemicals used in fracking can cause cancer and 50 percent can affect the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems: “An estimated 30 to 70 percent of the fracking fluid will resurface, bringing back with it toxic substances that are naturally present in underground oil and gas deposits, as well as the chemicals used in the fracking fluid. … In addition to water contamination issues, at each stage of the production and delivery, tons of toxic, volatile compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzine, xylene, cadmium, etc., and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of the diesel-driven mobile and stationary equipment to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone not only causes irreversible damage to the lungs, it is equally damaging to conifers, aspen, forage, alfalfa and other crops grown in the West. Ozone plumes can travel up to 250 miles.”

Do we want to be able to drink our water? In the documentary Gasland, residents of Colorado were able to light their water on fire because of the fugitive natural gas and chemicals now present in their groundwater due to the fracking process. Montana is truly the Last Best Place! We cannot allow our blue-ribbon trout streams, fresh air, abundant wildlife and health and livelihoods in ranching and farming to be desecrated by this extremely toxic and unnecessary process. In hydraulic fracturing, chemicals are pumped approximately 7,700 feet below ground, and there is absolutely no way to clean up a leak after ground and water contamination have occurred.

In May of this year, the state of Vermont was the first to ban hydraulic fracturing. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stated, “This bill will ensure that we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.” The citizens of Upstate New York were also successful in protecting their land and watershed after a massive public outcry and celebrity support—launching Artists Against Fracking to rally celebrities who support a ban on fracking.

How can Sen. Jon Tester, an organic farmer, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a former member of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency, allow this risky and chemically laden process to occur in our great state? We must unite as residents and stewards of these beautiful Rocky Mountains and insist that a ban be placed on hydraulic fracturing on state and county levels.

Heidi Strohmyer

Bozeman

That’s clear

Posted on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I read Dameon Matule’s article [“It’s every Montanan’s Land. So why can’t we get to it?,” July 19]. Though I’ve never hunted, do not own land and was raised in the suburbs of the Southeast, he articulated the issues well, balancing stakeholder interests and the state’s dilemma to mitigate them so that I understood all sides. He did it with balanced and factual reporting. Sadly, American journalism today rarely reaches the bar that Mr. Matule easily cleared.

Though I’m a first-time visitor to Montana, from Las Vegas of all places, I now have a souvenir of knowledge from this trip. I thought I would just see a few of the natural wonders of Glacier National Park. I was pleasantly surprised to also take away a nugget of a local issue from a gifted writer (and editor). For that, I’m thankful to Mr. Matule and the staff of the Missoula Independent.

Pat Fogarty

Las Vegas

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Agenda 21: It’s big

Posted on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Regarding your recent article by Gina Knudson entitled “Hail the collaborators” (July 5): Kudos to the “little people” of the middle road who are portrayed as just rural, country, neighborly folk, now termed the “radical center” by Courtney White of the Quivira Coalition.

Standing by while the two extremes fight it out for control is pretty much akin to the German Lutheran Church, whose leadership believed the church could maintain a neutral position and be left alone while Germany’s fearless leader charted a new path for the Third Reich prior to WWII; the church became the German Reich Church and its previous leadership either fled the fatherland or was imprisoned.

Referring to the United Nations Agenda 21 and everything it has spawned since its original inception and release in 1992 as a “white paper” is about the same as referring to the tsunami that recently devastated Japan as a minor tidal change. Either Ms. Knudson has no concept of this little “white paper” at all (which is by no means a “white paper” but rather a very lengthy dissertation), has merely accepted an interpretation or reference to it from someone else or just doesn’t care to consider its impact on the world as we know it, but she is providing a huge disservice to her readership with her shrugged reference to a monumentally and fundamentally existence-changing action that has been invading our lives with restrictions and limitations never intended by the designers of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

To be clear, we do not have a “democracy” (and it had better NOT be “hard at work”); we have a representative republic. To continue referring to it as a democracy is a pretty clear act of deception to all of her neighbors and readers; another simple example of distortion meant to manipulate.

Michael Gale

Ronan

Coal in Montana’s stocking

Posted on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 4:00 AM

A report just released this week by transportation expert Terry Whiteside sheds light on the huge impact that coal export rail traffic is going to have on other industries that use the tracks.

Out-of-state coal companies planning to mine coal in the Powder River Basin and ship it across rail lines through Montana are going to put a huge burden on Montana communities along rail lines by increasing train traffic by 40 to 60 trains a day. The congestion on the rail lines will cause all other train traffic to divert to California and Canadian ports. Grain, cargo and passenger rail will take a back seat to coal trains.

This is a losing situation for Montana. The American market for coal is shrinking, but these coal companies also want to dig up eastern Montana’s coal and ship it on trains to China. This endangers other Montana industries and threatens to destroy our landscape, our water and our agricultural areas.

Once again, mining companies and railroads would reap huge profits and leave Montanans to clean up the mess and foot the bill.

Janet McMillan

Greenough

Ban fracking

Posted on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I am a native Montanan who now lives in Arizona. I visit close relatives across Montana nearly every summer and am extremely concerned that my very favorite place, Glacier National Park, will soon suffer the impacts of hydraulic fracturing. According to a local paper near the park, the Hungry Horse News, 70 wells have already been drilled on reservation land surrounding the park and environmental assessments have been prepared to soon drill 88 more.

This will result in undrinkable water (that actually ignites when lit because of high amounts of benzene in the water!) in the areas near the park and perhaps in the park itself. The water, soil, plant life and living things near the wells cannot survive—the damage is irreversible. I would encourage anyone questioning these facts to view the documentaries Gasland and Split Estate. When Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which encourages new natural gas exploration in the U.S., the legislation made oil and gas companies exempt from following the policies of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Oil companies do not have to divulge which toxic chemicals they use to extract the gas from the shale.

These chemicals are brought, along with the escaping gas, to the surface and into the air, water and lungs of humans and animals near drilling sites—and the sites are present in almost every state in the United States! The gas is present in streams, soil and ground water. The contaminated ground water has been analyzed and contains 596 toxic chemicals. According to Dr. Theo Colborn, who has done extensive research, these chemicals cause asthma, skin and organ problems and irreversible brain damage.

Companies also can legally, without notice, drill on private land if the land owners have mineral rights. The negative health effects on humans and animals are serious, and we can only guess what the environmental impacts will be in most of the U.S. where fracking has left its scars, because there have been no government studies done to date that are accurate.

Toxins such as benzene, which when used in the fracking process is 40 times above government standards, will leach into the streams, ground water and air in areas surrounding the park and into the park itself, doing permanent damage to the environment. This in effect creates a “dead zone” much like that of the area around Pavillion, Wyo. (an area that was heavily contaminated from chemicals used in fracking).

If you care about clean water in your great state, please write your legislator to immediately ban fracking in western Montana and anywhere else you value. Don’t let the big companies destroy the Last Best Place!

Deborah Fleming

Scottsdale, Arizona

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Half the battle

Posted on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 4:00 AM

In “Montana’s GOP wrestles with same-sex politics” (June 28), Jessica Mayrer described the recent advances in LGBT issues at the state GOP convention with a good legal primer on developments over the last few decades locally. She concluded her article by noting GOP delegate Elwood English’s worry that the delegation was not aware of the removal of the homosexual-activity ban from the party platform. The provision was voted on without debate.

As a delegate to the platform convention, I can say that both myself and the folks (of multiple generations) sitting around me saw the edit straightaway and approved. In fact, it was my intent to propose an amendment from the floor striking out the language if it had not already been done in committee.

However, striking the language from the platform is only half the battle. This January, we must follow through and do the same with the unconstitutional law still present in the Montana Code.

Many have tried to argue that this change in platform means little for the party, as the GOP added a “marriage definition” to its national affairs plank. However, Montana news organizations failed to report that that addition was opposed from the floor. I proposed an amendment to strike the marriage definition from our national affairs plank, receiving about 30 ayes on a voice vote.

When Republicans attempt to control people’s private lives, our commitment to the Constitution, free markets and individual liberty becomes less credible.

Nick Schwaderer

Republican candidate for House District 14

Superior

“Gun to the head”

Posted on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Lost in the media free-for-all after last month’s Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s healthcare law was an important line from Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion that should stand out to all Montanans concerned about the future of our state: “It is a gun to the head.”

That’s how Roberts described the healthcare law’s unconstitutional, forced expansion of Medicaid onto state governments across our country. This is the same provision that in February of 2011 our own Gov. Brian Schweitzer said “will bankrupt the states.” In 2010, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated that the law would require over $2.2 billion in increased Medicaid spending in Montana alone from 2014 to 2019. To fund that mandated expansion, our state legislature would have been coerced by Washington politicians into spending a new $100 million out of the state budget or risk losing $700 million a year in Medicaid funding. The Supreme Court thankfully struck down the Medicaid expansion provision because it was unconstitutional.

Now, I don’t know about other people, but where I grew up, in Hardin, if someone threatens our state with a $2.2 billion “gun to the head,” we expect our elected officials to stand up and defend us. Unfortunately, when our current attorney general was asked to join our neighbors in 26 other states to do just that against this federal overreach into our state checkbook, he chose to sit on the sidelines and ignore the threat. Now that he’s leaving his post to run for governor, the Democratic Party candidate looking to succeed him has publicly stated that she also would not have joined our neighbors in resisting this “gun to the head,” irresponsibly calling the effort against this unconstitutional intrusion “contrary to the attorney general’s role.”

Montana citizens deserve better. Thankfully, attorneys general in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska and 16 other states joined together with elected officials, business leaders and activists from across the country (Republicans and Democrats alike) in this nonpartisan effort that resulted in the demise of President Obama’s unconstitutional Medicaid expansion.

Sitting on the sidelines hoping that our neighbors protect us from federal overreach is unacceptable. Not only do I share Schweitzer’s concern that the health care law would have bankrupted Montana had it not been struck down, but the Supreme Court’s decision that the Medicaid rule is unconstitutional is exactly why Montanans expect their attorney general to protect them when the federal government overreaches.

Tim Fox

Republican candidate for Montana Attorney General

Montana City

Fili-busted

Posted on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 4:00 AM

“The least man in the chamber, once he gets and holds that floor, by the rules can hold it and talk as long as he can stand on his feet providing always, first, that he does not sit down, and second that he does not leave the chamber or stop talking.”

That’s straight out of the script of the 1939 Academy Award-winning movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Though fiction, it describes how filibusters used to work in the U.S. Senate.

Thought to be based on Anaconda Company-era Montana, the movie is about an idealistic young ranger who is unexpectedly appointed to the Senate and discovers he is expected to follow the dictates of the corrupt political machine in his state, which controls its industry, newspapers and politicians. Sen. Smith (played by actor Jimmy Stewart) refuses to knuckle under and is blackmailed by the corrupt machine. Faced with expulsion from the Senate, he defiantly exposes the corruption in his state in a one-man filibuster that after many hours ends in his dramatic collapse on the Senate floor—but also in his vindication.

Filibusters now work the opposite of the way they did in 1939. No longer do they require debate or rhetoric. In fact, they prevent it. By modern Senate rules, no senator can debate anything in the 100-member body unless allowed to by a prearranged 60-vote “super-majority.” Mr. Smith couldn’t even get recognized in the Senate today.

Once regarded as the world’s greatest deliberative body, today’s U.S. Senate flounders in the absurd abuse of its own rules. Now, consent of 60 percent of the senators is required before it can do virtually anything. In this era of fanatical party loyalty, the majority party can’t advance anything because, lacking 60 votes, it is routinely obstructed from doing so by the minority. The minority can’t pass anything because it’s in the minority. Ridiculous, but true.

Except for passage of pork-barrel spending measures that help to reelect all senators, the partisan impasse will continue. It doesn’t have to. The House of Representatives, requiring only a simple majority, has passed major legislation to reduce the national debt. The Senate hasn’t debated the House debt-reduction plan or come up with a counter plan of its own because it lacks 60 Democrats or Republicans to start the discussion.

The next time you are at a public meeting attended by Rep. Denny Rehberg or Sen. Jon Tester, ask them if they want to be part of a legislative body that passes a serious debt-reduction plan. Predictably, they’ll say, “Yes.”

Then pin them down on whether they’re also willing to join an increasing number of concerned senators ready to revise the filibuster rule to actually make that possible.

Bob Brown

Former Montana Secretary of State

Whitefish

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