Montana Lawmakers Rein In Judicial Climatism

Mine work at Westmoreland’s Rosebud Mine near Colstrip. Credit: Alexis Bonogofsky

Montana Free Press reports on how the state legislature liberated project permitting from CO2 hysteria, and the nonsense labeling the essential trace gas as a “pollutant.” The article is Gianforte signs bill banning state agencies from analyzing climate impacts.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

House Bill 971 comes as Montana courts are poised to consider how “clean and healthful environment” protections intersect with energy regulations.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed into law a bill that bars the state from considering climate impacts in its analysis of large projects such as coal mines and power plants.

House Bill 971 was among the most controversial energy- and environment-related proposals before the Legislature this session, drawing more than 1,000 comments, 95% of which expressed opposition to the measure. HB 971 bars state regulators like the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from including analyses of greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts, both within and outside Montana’s borders, when conducting comprehensive reviews of large projects.

It builds off of a decade-old law barring the state from including
“actual or potential impacts that are regional, national,
or global in nature” in environmental reviews.

Comment:  The pertinent wording appears in Part 2 of the Act:

(2) (a) Except as provided in subsection (2)(b), an environmental review conducted pursuant to subsection (1) may not include an evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions AND corresponding impacts to the climate in the state or beyond the state’s borders.

(2) (b) An environmental review conducted pursuant to subsection (1) may include an evaluation if: conducted JOINTLY by a state agency and a federal agency to the extent the review is required by the federal agency;
or the United States congress amends the federal Clean Air Act to include carbon dioxide emissions as a regulated pollutant.

Gianforte signed HB 971 into law May 10 over opposition from climate and environmental groups that had argued that the measure hinders the state’s ability to respond to the crisis of our time: the atmosphere-warming emissions of greenhouse gases that are shrinking the state’s snowpack, reducing summer and fall streamflows, and contributing to catastrophic flooding and longer, more intense wildfire seasons. Opponents had also argued that the majority of Montanans believe in human-caused climate change and want meaningful climate action.

Proponents of the measure, including its sponsor, Rep. Josh Kassmier, R-Fort Benton, argued that by pushing back on a recent ruling revoking a NorthWestern Energy gas plant permit, HB 971 underscores that it’s lawmakers, not judges, who set policy. Other proponents, including the Treasure State Resources Association and the Montana Petroleum Association, asserted that HB 971 protects state agencies from an “unworkable” mandate to measure greenhouse gas emissions and that any such regulation properly belongs under federal regulatory frameworks such as the Clean Air Act.

NorthWestern Energy Plan Building a New $250M Natural Gas Power Plant at Laurel, Montana

Gianforte spokesperson Kaitlin Price echoed this assessment in a statement to Montana Free Press.

“House Bill 971 re-established the longstanding, bipartisan policy that analysis conducted pursuant to the Montana Environmental Policy Act does not include analysis of greenhouse gas emissions,” Price said. “The bill would allow evaluation of GHGs if it is required under federal law or if Congress amends the Clean Air Act to include carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant.”

The bill comes as a Helena judge is weighing a case brought by 16 youth plaintiffs asking the judicial branch to require the state to measure and regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That lawsuit, Held vs. Montana, is set for a 10-day hearing that will start June 12.

It also comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a rule that would expand regulations dealing with power plants’ emissions of greenhouse gasses. If passed, the rule would require power plants like the coal-fired plant in Colstrip to capture 90% of its carbon emissions by 2038.


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