Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fuzzy headed

Posted on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:00 AM

John Bohlinger has given us yet another reason not to support him in his bid for the U.S. Senate, and that is his fuzzy headed thinking. It is indeed fuzzy headed to say that we have lost the right to choose our senator. I can’t help but wonder if Gov. Bullock had appointed him he would feel that our right to vote had been taken away. The original Constitution provided that U.S. Senators were selected by our state Senate. In some cases, those seats were “bought.” Talk about taking away our right to vote for senators.

John Walsh has not yet been elected, and may not be elected. If Bohlinger were as interested in keeping a Democrat in the Senate as he is in being that Democrat, he would not be whining. He would be campaigning on substantive issues. I don’t know where Bohlinger gets the idea that Walsh’s appointment “is a blatant attack on the very foundation of our freedom—the democratic right to choose who shall represent us in our republic.” Perfectly ridiculous.

If you think John Bohlinger is the best candidate, by all means vote for him. However, don’t be hoodwinked into thinking Walsh’s appointment has deprived you of that option.

For my part, I want to encourage voters to pay attention to what the candidates say, their ability to think clearly, their position on important issues, and then make an informed decision about who to vote for. Bullock had every right to appoint whomever he wanted, and apparently did so. Nowhere is there any requirement that he solicit input from anyone. He even suggested that Sen. Reid “butt-out” when he asked for Walsh’s appointment. And, Bullock certainly didn’t take away our right to vote for a senator.

Jean Bowman

Missoula

Callous comments

Posted on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:00 AM

In response to the trapping of yet another companion animal in Montana, this time an old pet, this is what a trapper in Montana posted on Trap Free Montana Public Land’s Facebook page:

“im an avid trapper and all I can say is suck it up,why would u be so irresponsible to take your dog with you during an open season.....the only thing immoral here is your stupidity!!~!!”

A photo of the many trapped pets and the tragic reminder of the trapping death of beloved Cupcake in Missoula resulted in another Montana trapper posting, “Wonder what the fur price on Cupcake was.”

Less than 1 percent of Montanans are licensed trappers. They’re holding our public lands, one-third of Montana, hostage from the other 99 percent for safe, enjoyable recreational use—and they blame us, often callously.

Note trapping is legal year round in Montana, there is no “open season.” Love your pet? Trappers don’t think they should accompany you while you recreate on our public lands. Instead, leave those bird dogs, hound dogs, family pets, search and rescue dogs home. Best you leave your kids home then, too, and watch your step. Traps don’t discriminate.

Support I-169 Trap Free Montana Public Lands for people, pets, wildlife and for Montana. Visit trapfreemt.org to sign-up to gather signatures and learn other ways to help get this on the ballot for all Montanans to decide.

KC York

Chairman

Trap Free Montana Public Lands

Hamilton

Charged up

Posted on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:00 AM

This month Montana lawmakers will continue working on an important study about the future of renewable energy in Montana. The Legislature’s Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee has spent the last year analyzing the impact that our renewable energy standard has had on Montana’s economy, electricity bills and environment. As long as they play by the rules, they will discover what we already know to be true—renewable energy has been a good deal for Montana ratepayers.

Montana enacted a renewable energy standard in 2005, requiring public utilities to add new renewable energy sources into their electricity portfolio. Today, the utilities are on track to meet those benchmarks while acquiring energy that is actually cheaper than traditional fossil fuel sources.

The renewable energy standard is good policy because it reduces risk to ratepayers and lowers our electricity costs. In fact, new wind energy sources are one of the best deals for utilities. According to the Public Service Commission, wind energy from Judith Gap was significantly cheaper than sources from coal and even hydroelectric dams from 2009-11.

To the legislators studying the standard—help protect us from increasing electricity prices by developing more of Montana’s renewable resources, such as wind and solar. We all know that renewable energy has proven to be a good deal for Montana by diversifying our energy supply, creating new jobs across the state, cleaning up our air and boosting our tax base. Let’s do more in the coming years.

Ed Gulick

Billings

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't fix it

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Right now, Montana's lawmakers are reviewing the Renewable Energy Standard, which requires utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy they buy. But they are trying to fix something that isn't broken. Renewable energy is a great buy for Montana. Power from the wind farm at Judith Gap, for example, is cheaper than electricity from Colstrip. That's a fact. NorthWestern has reported it, and the Public Service Commission has recorded it. 

And actually, solar is cheaper too. I know because I just bought solar photovoltaic panels for my house—which I am installing myself—and they are going to pay for themselves in 6 years. After that, I am going to have free electricity for at least 20 years.

The reason why some legislators want to mess with the Renewable Energy Standard, I suspect, is not because clean energy isn't working, it's because the coal lobby is running scared. Some rich people have a lot of money invested in coal, and things are not looking good for coal right now. PPL is trying to sell its share of Colstrip to NorthWestern, but when NorthWestern recently crunched the numbers, it turned out that Colstrip actually had a negative value. That's right: The economics of coal are so bad, PPL would actually have to pay NorthWestern money before NorthWestern would "buy" Colstrip.

If it isn't broken, the legislature shouldn't try to fix it. The Renewable Energy Standard is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for ratepayers.

Wade Sikorski

Baker

A hero

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 3:25 PM

The Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes considers Suzie Green, a plow operator for the state Department of Transportation, a hero. I wanted to offer sincere thanks and appreciation for her rescue efforts early March 1 near Arlee.

Tribal Officers Don Bell and TJ Haynes relayed the story to Council. Suzie's decisive action enabled the rescue of two middle aged men who became stranded in 7-foot-high snow drifts near Arlee. With the 5-degree temperatures and high winds, we have no doubt that a three-hour wait for a Search and Rescue team may have proved disastrous. We wanted you to know that we have shared our appreciation of your help with the state director of transportation and to the governor.

From our perspective, you took the best course of action that night.

Ronald Trahan

Council Chairman

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Unnecessary fear

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Montana has a proud history of sharing public lands, but in reality, trapping significantly shuts out other forms of land use. How many people simply don't dare take their dog out on our public lands, fearful their beloved dog will be caught in a trap? Over 50 pets were trapped last year in Montana and FWP said that was not unusual. How many fear for their children?

Trapping isn't part of science-based management—most trapped animals aren't even counted or reported. The "incidental" catches are unknown and records are absent. How can this possibly be good for wild lands, or wildlife?

It's also time to consider the animals. Since the 19th century we have learned that pain and fear and distress are not functions of our "higher" brain. The animals experience the suffering caused by traps and the sometimes gruesome methods of killing much as we would.

It is time to stop this kind of torture on our public lands. It is time to stop unnecessary fear and pain on the lands we all share.

Mary Sarumi

Great Falls

Dap for Daines

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Montana has been made a role model for the rest of the nation to follow thanks to the work Congressman Steve Daines has done with the North Fork Watershed Protection Act (see "One more step forward," March 13). The legislation, which has passed through the House, was started by a Democrat (Sen. Baucus), and Daines' opponent in the Senate who is in supports of this bill. Doing the legwork to get the legislation passed is a testament to Daines' dedication to bipartisanship. Daines has shown that he knows how to put Montana's well-being ahead of party politics. This is imperative to the young voters of Montana like me to continue to put our trust and faith in our elected officials. It's a rare scene when groups like ConocoPhillips and wilderness societies come together, but that's the kind of leader Daines is and the kind of leadership we can continue to rely on. Thanks goes to Rep. Daines for his great work protecting the North Fork!

Heather Hoff

Missoula

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Moron manifesto

Posted on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:00 AM

If you aren’t clear what a moron is, let me set that straight before moving on. For the purpose of this article a moron is any person you observe, think wtf and then categorize with a curse word or some other disparaging comment, like “Moron!”

Have you noticed that the number of and frequency that you run into morons is dramatically increasing? Have you ever wondered why? If you keep reading I may be able to explain it.

There are people out there doing things, acting in ways, saying stuff (out loud, on the opinion page of the newspaper, or with social media) that just rub you the wrong way, conflict with your beliefs, annoy your sense of what is right and make you wonder what has gone wrong with the world. This might be as simple as someone cutting in front of you on the highway a little closer to your car that you are comfortable with. It might also be as significant as violating a deeply held and publicly stated religious, philosophical or spiritual belief (an affront to all that you hold dearly and central to the existence of humanity on the planet.)

Look around, make sure no one is watching, and raise your hand if you have run into one of these morons today, in the last hour or can see one right now. Now look around, do you see anyone else raising their hand? Are they looking at you? Yep, that’s right—you might be their moron.

At some point we are all someone else’s moron and the U.S. Constitution, that I fought and killed people for during my years in the Marines, protects each of our rights to act like a moron. It is this diversity that makes our country strong. Morons all over the world are imprisoned and worse because they lack the freedoms we Americans take for granted when we disagree with another of our citizens and categorize them as a moron.

Now is where I ask for your help ridding the world of morons. Accept that what makes us different individually makes us stronger as a nation. Attempt to begin to understand—because it only works if you try to understand as often as you judge. Realize, yes, occasionally you are someone else’s moron and the right you enjoy to judge them is shared by those judging you. Eventually stop calling people morons. Only then will we rid the world of morons. Only you can stop moronism.

Tim Peterson

Corvallis

Cut the leash

Posted on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:00 AM

With lemming-like precision, most Democrats fell in line with the environmentalist narrative about global warming and have joined with them in attacking all things related to coal. It was highly remarkable (heretical in some circles) then that last week a group of four Democratic U.S. senators declared that they are charting a middle path for coal—that is, acknowledging the problems with climate change while not being blind to the fact that we will need to consume increasing amounts of coal to meet our energy needs in the future.

The four senators—from North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Indiana—denounced the “keep it in the ground” strategy advocated by environmental groups and supported by the Obama administration, especially the opposition to clean coal technology that promises to reduce future emissions while still providing low-cost and reliable energy.

They couldn’t be more right. Pretending that we can replace coal with alternative energy is simply a fairy tale. The federal Energy Information Administration projects that alternative energy will be able to supply just 8 percent of U.S. energy demand by 2040, even assuming the continuation of massive taxpayer subsidies. Their forecasts show that coal will meet about the same amount of energy demand 30 years from now as it does today.

And that’s just the United States—around the world demand for coal is growing. There are still 1 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic electricity. Energy poverty relegates people to substandard conditions in health care, education and all sorts of other categories.

The problem of energy poverty is equal to, if not greater than, that of global warming. How can we look at those 1 billion people and tell them they can’t have basic advantage of electricity?

That’s the appeal of the “middle path” for coal now being adopted by a few brave Democrats. We can reduce emissions by developing new technology to make coal cleaner, while still keeping energy costs low. This doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition. Thus the frustration with environmental groups that are attempting to block exports of American coal, and with the Obama administration, which has declared a de facto moratorium on construction of high-tech, coal-fired power plants through proposed EPA regulations.

If the U.S. doesn’t take the lead in developing clean-coal technology, then who will?

No state has more at stake in this than Montana. Over 60 percent of our electricity is generated from coal and we have by far the largest coal reserves in the U.S. Those massive reserves, valued at $1.5 trillion, present the single biggest economic opportunity for our state with the potential for tens of thousands of new jobs.

With so much at stake, it’s disappointing that Montana’s two U.S. senators were not front and center with their Democratic colleagues in advocating the “middle path” on coal.

Gov. Steve Bullock has already shown leadership in this regard. In a recent letter to the EPA asking they back down on proposed coal regulations, the governor wrote, “The U.S. EIA forecasts that coal will continue to be an important part of our nation’s energy future for several decades … in the long-term, we’ll still need coal and advanced coal technologies that reduce carbon emissions. This will only happen with a strong commitment to research and development.”

Why aren’t Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh adding their voices to one of the most critical issues that affects Montana? Maybe it’s time they show a little leadership and cut the leash from the Sierra Club.

Bob Lake

Montana Public Service Commission

Hamilton

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Third way on coal

Posted on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Montana’s raw beauty and wide open spaces are inexorably joined to harsh conditions like these recent minus-30 temperatures. Such dangerous conditions mean that neighbors sometimes have to work together just to survive even when they have a history of past conflicts. Maybe this is why Montanans are well known for looking for the elusive “third way” in situations of conflict where compromise is born of pragmatism.

I couldn’t help but think of this analogy while attending the Blue Green Alliance Conference in Washington, D.C. recently under threat of a rare East Coast snowstorm. The Blue Green Alliance hosts a conference where environmentalist and labor unions get together to talk about our common interests. As we work together, we seek to strike a balance between jobs and the environment.

Similarly, Montana’s natural resources—both the beauty of the land and the richness of the resources lying beneath it—have always presented Montanans with the challenge of balancing conservation with economics. Throughout Montana’s history, we have striven for the proper balance—enjoying that beauty without trampling it, and gaining access to the riches underneath without unduly disturbing the landscape that gives us our identity. That balance is our “third way,” where extremist positions take a back to seat to pragmatism.

For the most part, we’ve done a good job of striking that balance. Today, part of that balancing act revolves around Montana’s massive coal reserves—the largest of any state, still mostly untapped and in growing demand by an energy-hungry world.

Coal’s abundance, reliability and price stability are the qualities that have made it the most popular fuel for electricity generation over the past century, a key to providing reliable, affordable electricity to drive the economy. Even with natural gas production rising, the U.S. as a whole still gets about 40 percent of its power from coal. In Montana, half our electricity comes from coal and nearly 10,000 jobs and entire counties the size of Rhode Island depend on the coal industry’s health.

Montanans’ futures are clouded today not by our state of the industry coal plants burning the cleanest coal on the planet, but also by proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations that could decimate towns’ cultures and livelihoods by mandating carbon capture and storage technologies on coal generation facilities that are not yet commercially viable and that are illegal to mandate under existing law.

That unproven technology, according to some inflexible voices in the energy/environment discussion, is the only way to assure that coal burns cleanly enough to assure Americans can meet global carbon reduction goals. But obviously, no utility is going to adopt an unproven technology that can’t produce power at prices consumers can afford.

In Montana, those willing to compromise advocate a third way with coal and carbon reduction; aggressive incremental improvement built on proven and scalable clean coal technology. The fact is, coal today already burns far cleaner than it did just a few years ago. And technological advances are under development that will take us to an era of even cleaner coal in the not-too-distant future.

Regulating coal into oblivion and tens of thousands of Montanans out of a job isn’t the right path for our nation’s energy future. Our “third way” keeps Montanans at work and affordable, clean, reliable, coal-generated electricity in the mix. I attended the Blue Green Alliance conference with union workers, Native tribal members and other like-minded Montanans to encourage that third way, and felt well received.

Coal can, and must be, integral to the long-term energy plans of the United States. And as the richest of all the coal states, Montana has a chance to once again leverage its mineral riches in a way that respects our love of the land. Montanans have the solution, and we encourage the nation and the EPA to follow.

John Roeber

President

Montana State Building and

Construction Trades Council

Butte

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