Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fish, birds, us and coal

Posted on Thu, Nov 28, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Here in Montana, mercury pollution threatens our health and our environment by entering our waterways and poisoning the fish that appear on our dinner plates. Birds that eat these fish, notably the ospreys that reside on our Clark Fork, are displaying off the chart mercury levels. However, this pollution is harming more than our fish and birds, it is harming us. A statewide health advisory has been implemented to limit our consumption of fish because of mercury pollution.

Mercury, a highly dangerous neurotoxin, is a serious health concern for both humans and wildlife. Even extremely small doses can be linked to many neurological disorders, cardiac disease and can alter the development of small children and infants.

Here in Montana, coal plants are responsible for over 90 percent of mercury pollution. With large ongoing coal operations such as Colstrip and Corette, and the proposal of our nation’s largest new coal strip mine in the Tongue River Valley, this issue can no longer be ignored. Corporate coal must be held responsible for the destruction of both our health and our environment. I urge Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration to consider these adverse effects when considering whether to allow new coal mining here in Montana.

Charley Frazier

Missoula

Power of place

Posted on Thu, Nov 28, 2013 at 4:00 AM

The news is beginning to break. As an avid Wilderness user this is exciting for me. As a new resident of Montana this is exciting because truly my state cares about protecting wild lands. And probably most exciting, as a citizen of the United States I am finally seeing democracy in action. Last Thursday in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act was marked up and voted on. The Senate committee, with a history of bipartisanship, understood after 30 years with no new wilderness in Montana it was time to add 200,000 acres of conservation land and 67,000 new acres of Wilderness.

If you have ever slept under the stars after hiking miles into the wild, or been hunting and seen all the wildlife and space Montana has to offer, you may understand the powerful effect the Last Best Place can have on a person. Even if you have only driven by and been astounded at the beauty composing the unique Rocky Mountain Front from a distance you can understand it too—this place is precious.

Thank you to Max Baucus, who has been adamant about passing this bill that appeals to all Montanans from conservationists to hikers to mountain bikers to hunters. Simply put, Montanans want this. We want to protect the lands we call home.

I hope this momentum pushes Steve Daines to realize this is in the interest of all Montanans. Perhaps it will pave the way for other wilderness inclined bills such as the Forest Job and Recreation Act. With the support of Sen. Baucus and the hundreds of Montanans who support this bill finally we are moving mountains in Congress in order to protect our own here at home.

Eliza Hazen

Missoula

When, not if

Posted on Thu, Nov 28, 2013 at 4:00 AM

The tragic death of malamute Little Dave was a matter of when, not if (see “etc.,” Nov. 21). A wolf trophy hunting season a full six months long only increases the odds that tragedy will strike again, placing an unfair burden on benign (non-killing) users of public lands.

A culture of gun worship, a vendetta mentality against predators and the dominance of blood sports—including trapping—in funding the state management agency and setting its management goals have left multitudes of citizens out in the cold and without peace of mind when we venture onto our public lands.

My heart breaks for Little Dave and the human who loved him as family—just as it breaks for wolves who maintain deep, affectionate bonds with their own family groups and whose suffering will increase tenfold when the two and a half-month trapping season commences.

The bullets meant for one canine found another. Either way, the outcome is tragic.

Kathleen Stachowski

Lolo

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Forget coal

Posted on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:00 AM

As a union supporter and past president of my local, I read with interest John Roeber’s letter advocating for a new energy policy based on coal (see “Coal and conservation” in Letters, Nov. 14). It’s clear Roeber languishes in an early stage of grief: denial. Coal is in its death throes. Numerous states limit or prohibit coal-fired energy, including West Coast markets served by Montana. Pennsylvania Power and Light, an owner of Colstrip, hopes to divest of this dinosaur, if they can find a buyer out of touch with reality and the best interests of ratepayers.

The push to export coal is a desperate measure to prolong the inevitable. It is a race against the clock. Even China recently released an energy policy phasing out coal in favor of clean energy development this decade. I say, let America lead the way.

The ultimate irony for a union man like Roeber is that his ardent support for coal is more aligned with Tea Party Republicans than Democrats who have long advocated for labor rights. Arch Coal, which plans to develop Otter Creek, is notoriously anti-union. Arch, along with Peabody Coal, shifted its union employees to Patriot Coal. Roeber should know the intent was to bankrupt Patriot and not honor union pensions, which occurred in 2012. United Mine Workers is still fighting this. In his important role as union leader, his advocacy for the coal industry does a disservice to the employees he represents and to the future of the labor movement as a whole.

I do not envy Roeber’s position, nor condone his trumpeting big coal or attacking environmentalists. Where was he during the decades wasted when we could have been transitioning to a new energy paradigm? With the grossly expensive specter of climate change facing societies worldwide, the time for transition is overdue and the time for real action is now.

While we cannot afford delay, consideration of coal workers complicates immediate actions. Along with debunking any notion of clean coal, it is important to consider a “just transition” for our labor brothers and sisters in the coal industry. Their fate is intertwined with the promise of labor unions—collective bargaining, safe working conditions and wages that support a middle class. Labor and conservationists know companies like Arch and Peabody do not support strong unions or a clean environment.

Like Roeber, I have been involved in the BlueGreen Alliance and attended a national convention. Unlike his Rally for American Energy Jobs, BlueGreen advocates a jobs strategy in the clean economy based on renewable energy, energy efficiency and a smart electrical grid, improving our transportation and water infrastructures, and redeveloping domestic manufacturing. BlueGreen’s Jobs 21! plan supports EPA standards regulating greenhouse gases, which creates jobs retrofitting Montana power plants.

At the state and national levels, the AFL-CIO is also working to build alliances. All these represent opportunities for good jobs, vibrant economies and sustainable communities, without compromising strong unions or clean environment. Together, labor and conservationists can build a promising future, one that “does not count on coal.”

Claudia Narcisco

Missoula

Bohlinger burns bridge

Posted on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I have known John Bohlinger for more than 30 years. He was a successful Billings businessman. He was a successful legislator. He represented Gov. Schweitzer admirably. He succeeded in these endeavors because he understood the issues, and he is extremely charming. But, most importantly, he knew how to work with people.

Sadly, he now acts like the Republican he used to be. For whatever reason, today’s Republicans have fractured their party, our Congress and our standing in the world. They haven’t figured out that in order to win, to achieve their goals, to make our country strong, they must work together.

It seems to me that John’s efforts would be better spent helping the Democratic party get solidly behind a candidate, rather than finding reason to criticize the very people he wants to be elected to work with. If elected, John will have to (or get to) work with Jon Tester and many other Democrats in the Senate. That may be harder than he thinks after taking them to task for not supporting him.

At his age, John should offer his expertise, and his name recognition to support John Walsh, who has the potential to be a senator long enough to gain some seniority and thus be able to work for the state of Montana and the nation as a whole.

Unless the Democrats work together, they will end up looking like Republicans.

Jean Bowman

Missoula

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coal and conservation

Posted on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Coal in America is about more than cheap, reliable electricity. It's about more than power plants and emissions. It's about sensible, responsible energy policy that affords the opportunity for economic growth but balances that critical need with the value we place on providing as clean an environment as we reasonably can. The problem is, when we start arguing over electricity from coal, "sensible" and "reasonable" seem to be left out of the discussion.

That's why the recent "Rally for American Energy Jobs" in Washington was so important, and why I traveled across the nation to be a part of it.

I'm the president of the Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager for Boilermakers Local No. 11, but I'm also an active member of the Blue Green Alliance, a group that brings labor and conservation organizations together to tackle environmental and economic issues collaboratively. That's a tough job, but it's one that desperately needs to be done, particularly when it comes to energy policy.

As the name suggests, this rally was about more than coal. It's about American energy jobs. And, while coal jobs are certainly at the heart of it, American energy jobs are present, and critically important, in every part of our nation. Affordable and reliable electricity makes our economy work ... it makes economic growth and jobs creation possible. So, when you speak of "energy jobs," you're really talking about every job in every community in America. Period.

But that fact, as important as it may be to each and every one of us, is lost in the debate over energy policy when all we hear about is why we can't use fossil fuels, and coal in particular. It's an argument that completely lacks balance and understanding of the total needs of a working economy. And, it's an attack, more than an argument, which completely lacks reasonableness and sensibility.

The result? A skewed, ineffective energy policy that wastes tax dollars in pursuit of unachievable goals, while dismissing and outlawing the biggest and most reliable energy resource we have. It kills reasonable debate, destroys the potential for meaningful progress toward a more sustainable energy future, and along with it, hundreds of the thousands of jobs in every locality in America.

So, why did I travel across the nation to participate in this rally? The reason is simple: to fight back against those who would drown out progress toward a workable energy future by doing the only thing we can—raising our voices to demand that we be heard.

Those of us at the rally support American coal and the vast number of energy jobs it creates. We do that by advocating for sensible, reasonable, workable policies that use our resources wisely and that don't strangle our economy by pursuing extreme political views and goals.

Electricity from coal is not an extreme political or environmental position. It's a reasonable and responsible one. Those who would eliminate it in favor of both unproven and staggeringly expensive alternatives are the extremists.

American coal doesn't just protect coal jobs, it protects and creates jobs and economic growth across our entire economy. The men and women that took part in this rally know that, and by attending, they've taken up a much bigger challenge than just their own interests. They've taken up the challenge of creating responsible energy policies that keep our country working.

It's not a zero sum game; although those who wish to eliminate coal electricity from our national energy mix view it as such. What it is, is a battle for a responsible energy future in a country that puts people to work...and works towards a better tomorrow.

John Roeber

President

Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council

East Helena

On a rail

Posted on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Montana is a land defined by its waterways. They are some of the healthiest and most pristine in the nation, drawing people from all over the country and world to fish, swim, raft, and admire them. So why risk degrading these precious wonders by letting careless and irresponsible companies such as Arch Coal and Burlington Northern Santa Fe transport coal in such close proximity to them?

In July, environmental groups filed their second joint lawsuit against BNSF after coal was found in the Spokane River. They claimed that coal trains running along waterways in Washington were discharging coal from the bottoms, sides and open tops of rail cars. BNSF argued that it did not violate the Clean Water Act, as the law has no jurisdiction over rail cars ... Rail cars? Jurisdiction? What about pollution?

BNSF is attempting to weasel its way out of responsibility via a legal technicality, leaving the public to clean up its mess.

Much of the same rail line runs along creeks and rivers in Montana, and unless the corporate giants in charge of mining and transporting our coal show a greater respect and sense of responsibility toward those who call Montana home, I would rather see them run out of town on a rail.

Max Higgins

Missoula

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New ideas

Posted on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 3:04 PM

I attended the "Death with Dignity" forum on October 14, 2013, featuring Dr. Kress and was intrigued by what was presented. Dr. Kress explained how he came to be a physician who offered aid in dying, and it was apparent that he made this decision with the utmost contemplation and care. Dr. Kress is an inspiration and a hero for speaking out on this controversial issue and making a stand for the rights of those who are at the end of their life.

If I am faced with a terminal illness I want the option to have aid in dying not only to relieve my suffering, but to ensure a peaceful passing. Since the only way this prescription could be given and carried out is if I am competent, the idea of knowing that my death would be my decision and not weighing on my family is of great importance to me. It is very upsetting to have to spend those last moments losing my bodily functions and riled in pain because some people want to impose their idea of morality on my death.

There were some people at my table who shared their story about looking into an aid in dying option for a family member or loved one and I was moved by their willingness to share. It made the aid in dying all that more important as an option that should be offered.

I am very pleased that the City Club of Missoula hosted this event and how much of a service they offer the people of Missoula. I am especially fond of their mission statement, "New Ideas—Free Exchange of Thought."

Bonnie Kelley

Missoula

From the Dirty Irish

Posted on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Why do friends and relatives posting conservative propaganda not realize that at one time or another every single one of our family members had to use food stamps temporarily, or federal student loans, or publicly supported medical insurance? With only family resources we'd have suffered more, and more would be dead by now. Without public education our girls could not have gone to school. If there was no such thing as food stamps I'd have had to prostitute to feed my kids since my parents did not arrange good marriages. If we had been required to pay cash on the day of our grandmother's stroke she'd have been dead years earlier! So when I see postings criticizing the use of public funds to help people who need it, I'm aghast.

Public resources belong to all. Emergencies happen. When did people become so greedy and stingy and hard-hearted? I was taught faith demands compassion. How can anyone who claims to be a Christian be so unkind? We all sacrifice to pay our taxes and I'd pay twice as much to feed children and seniors and poor people—instead of making war all over the globe and creating more widows and orphans and poor people. Why is it so hard to understand that if we educate our neighbor's children it makes the world a better place for our own children, too?

And since I'm expressing my opinions, let me say how offensive it is to hear people labeled "illegal." From now on I'm going to point out that is an overt insult to your own ancestors (unless you are Native American). My people were called Dirty Irish when they came to America, were held in contempt and taken advantage of because they weren't born here. That same prejudice drives attitudes today.

Cheryl Wolfe

Polson

Pray for Spencer

Posted on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 3:02 PM

This is in reference to the Lauren M. Fox article about Richard Spencer (see "The Hatemonger next door," Oct. 24). My first thought was how embarrassed I was to be white man, and then I thought why should I be embarrassed about someone's ignorance, which unfortunately gives Mr. Spencer a purpose, friends and pride.

I remember when I was young, a person told me how good looking he was. I realized immediately how ugly that person was. It is the same with people telling me how smart they are—it is clear to me how dumb they are, and I don't mean "dumb" in a mocking sense.

I noticed Mr. Spencer referred to his folly as creating an intellectual class of white separatists. First, the statement is oxymoronic. Second, this is a great example of someone calling himself/herself smart. Maybe the saddest part of Mr. Spencer's cause is his desire to make America a white state, when it has been a relatively short amount time since we slaughtered the indigenous peoples. I remember a professor telling that the best way to beat the Klan was to ignore them and not show up at their pansy marches where they don't have the ba, uh, I mean, the confidence to even show their identity (robes and masks). Sadly, the foundation of Mr. Spencer's religion, his god, finds his behavior abhorrent. Could you imagine how horrific it would be waking up and thinking like Mr. Spencer? It is precisely in this context I believe prayer was developed.

In all seriousness, I also believe we need to pray for Mr. Spencer and think positively that he will find compassion and start to take care of his real brothers and sisters.

Tom Irvine

Missoula

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