coal

Coal mine in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
BLM

Montana coal advocates are hailing the Supreme Court's ruling against the Obama administration's attempt to limit toxic emissions from power plants.

The justices ruled the Environmental Protection Agency failed to adequately consider costs when regulating emissions from coal and oil-fired plants.

Colstrip power plant
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a rule meant to reduce haze from coal burned in Montana.

Environmentalists were critical that rule wasn’t strong enough and hope it will be revised and strengthened. Meanwhile, the coal industry is calling the ruling a victory.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Update 06/08/15: In an earlier version of this story we misattributed a quote from Sen. Pat Connell to Rep Tom Steenberg. The story has been updated to correct this error.

A panel of state lawmakers is looking into a renewable-energy issue that died in the 2015 legislature.

The eight-member, bi-partisan panel will spend most of its time looking into “net metering”, the technology that lets electricity users get paid for contributing excess power generated by their solar panels or wind turbines.

05/17/2015 - - In this special from High Plains News - produced in association with Mountain West Voices, West Virginia Public Radio and Allegheny Front - we look at the present and future of coal in America. Reporter Catherine Moore traveled the back roads of West Virginia to learn how individuals and communities are dealing with the difficult economic and social transition away from coal. And we go to the Powder River Basin, the region straddling Wyoming and Montana that produces the bulk of the nation's coal.

U.S. Geological Survey

Clay Scott travels through the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming - the nation's most important coal-producing region - to talk with miners, ranchers and others who work in coal, or whose lives are affected by it.

Once again, for the third time, the Montana GOP has trotted out a plan to break and cap the Coal Tax Trust Fund that has been one of Montana’s biggest financial and policy success stories. In this attempt to steal your savings, they have demonstrated their lack of prudent money management skills and their propensity for trying to turn your savings account into their political slush fund, with no respect for the visionaries of the past who figured out how to protect our children and grandchildren's future.

Coal & Oil Taxes On Tuesday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 23, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Tuesday at the Montana Legislature, one state legislator goes on the defensive to protect Colstrip power plants and the surrounding community. Senator Duane Ankney is from Colstrip and says House Bill 402 is meant to keep the coal-fired plants in business.

Recently, Washington’s state Senate passed a bill to research the effects of Washington utilities closing some coal-powered utilities including the Colstrip Generating Station, which is partially owned by Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy.

Former Montana Senator, and current Ambassador to China, Max Baucus returned to his home state for the first time in over a year Monday night.

Baucus addressed a Montana Chamber of Commerce gathering in Helena. He said China's economic output is on track to surpass the U.S. in about 10 years, but that means increased opportunities for some Montana industries, such as energy. Montana can supply China with coal, and with technology to burn that coal cleanly, now that China has agreed to slow its growth in carbon emissions.

Legislators Weigh Lawsuit Over Out Of State Coal Ports

Mar 13, 2015

Montana legislators are considering giving $1 million to the Montana Department of Justice for a potential lawsuit against states hindering Montana’s coal trains from getting to larger markets. Namely, markets like China.

Eric Whitney

About 80 climate change activists rallied in Missoula this morning.

Led by Jeff Smith of the group 350Missoula, they gathered in front of Senator Steve Daines’ office here. There were there to, they said, “protest the senator’s denial of climate change science and his support for fossil fuel projects like coal exports, the Otter Creek Coal Mine, and the Keystone XL pipeline."

Rep. Ripley Would Cap Coal Trust At $1Billion

Feb 23, 2015
Flickr user wsilver

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to ask voters to cap the Constitutionally protected Coal Tax Trust at one-billion dollars. Senate Bill 353 would divert some of coal severance tax money that goes into the trust into an account to fund infrastructure projects. 

Coal-Impacted Counties Seek Increased Infrastructure Funding

Feb 4, 2015
Montana Coal Council

Coal-impacted counties say they are desperate for funds to fix roads, water systems, and to pay for  schools, but the grant source for those projects is short of money.

They’re asking lawmakers to temporarily bump up funding for the coal board.

American taxpayers are losing out on about $210 million a year in federal coal royalties. That’s according to the  Bozeman-based non-profit, "Headwaters Economics".

Mark Haggerty, with Headwaters, says coal companies aren’t being taxed as much as federal law allows.

“The problem that we've encountered is that the current royalty structure is relatively opaque and we don't have a really good sense of what kind of return we're getting.”

Amy R. Sisk

The Bakken oil boom in Montana has already busted. That’s according to Terry Johnson, director of energy research at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic research.

"I would argue that the Bakken boom in Montana actually occurred back in 2005 and 2006. That the boom is really no longer that present in Montana at this point in time."

Southeastern Montana's Crow Nation says President Obama’s pending climate plan would wreak economic havoc on the already-impoverished reservation.

Under the administration's proposal, states must reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is going up to bat for the Crow Nation. Fox says he's troubled by how the President is unilaterally guiding this climate proposal.

Eric Whitney

The start of the 2015 Legislative session is still seven weeks away, but a group of Democratic lawmakers, scientists, and activists is already working to frame a possible legislative debate on climate change. 

Among those who spoke at a climate change-focused news conference on Thursday was Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. He says even without the EPA pressuring the state to cut its carbon emissions by 20 percent in 15 years, slowing or reversing climate change would still be a priority, to save the state’s hunting and fishing industry.

Colstrip power plant
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

As the State of Montana grapples to find ways of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions under proposed new federal rules, a collection of business people, scientists, and Democratic lawmakers is pushing the incoming legislature to put more renewable energy to work as part of the solution.  The group is nudging the Republican-controlled legislature to take small steps.

Voter's Voice: The Most Important Issue? Part 1

Oct 8, 2014

What is the most important issue in this election? Watch the video, then tell us what issue is most important to you.

Cheri Trusler

A meeting to talk about reducing Montana’s carbon dioxide emissions drew more than 150 people to a Missoula hotel last night.

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality invited people to hear about and comment on their “white paper,” which shows five different strategies for the state to reduce Co2 emissions to meet a new federal target. That target for Montana is to reduce Co2 emissions by 21 percent by the year 2030.

Cheri Trusler

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality was in Missoula Thursday night to talk about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It was the last in a series of three public meetings around the state. The agency was explaining the options it’s come up with to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Montana, so the state can meet goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was also taking public comments. Missoula resident Jan Holm said, "If we’re really serious about reducing pollution and addressing climate change, we have to stop burning coal."

Sen. Duane Ankney (R) SD20
Montana Legislature

Tonight Governor Bullock’s proposal for how Montana can reduce C02 emissions from its coal fired power plants gets its first public airing at a meeting in Colstrip.

More public meetings will follow in Billings tomorrow night, and Missoula on Thursday. The administration is trying to meet a goal set by the Environmental Protection Agency for Montana to reduce C02 emissions 21 percent by the year 2030.

Montana coal boosters, including the coal companies themselves, have been warning Montanans that if they do not embrace unlimited coal exports to Asia, Montana will lose thousands of coal mining jobs while gaining nothing in the form of environmental protection.

Green-Washing Coal Mining And Coal Exports

Aug 27, 2014

The Oregon Department of State Lands recently denied a permit to Ambre Energy for its proposed coal shipping port on the Columbia River at Boardman. That proposed Morrow Pacific coal port is the smallest of the three coal ports still under consideration in the Pacific Northwest to move Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asian markets.

Energy, Agriculture, And Suing The President

Aug 1, 2014

This week in Montana politics: Walsh tries to weather the plagiarism storm, Zinke presents his energy plan, Lewis promotes his "Farm and Ranch Jobs Platform", Daines votes to sue the President.

Walsh Plagiarism

Clean Campaigns, A "Clean Platform" And Clean Coal

Jul 11, 2014

This week in Montana politics:

The A.P. reported that District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock rejected Sen. Art Wittich's attempt to dismiss campaign finance complaints filed against him. The ruling clears the way for the case against Wittich to proceed.

Hello, I’m Don Sterhan with the Montana Business Leadership Council, a non-profit organization aimed at educating Montanans about the importance of a healthy climate for business and industry to create more jobs, higher wages, and new opportunities.

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As the incumbent, John Walsh has an apparent advantage over his two opponents - John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams - in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

Montana Democrats next month will choose one of two candidates who hope to become Montana's next representative in the U.S. House. Republican Congressman Steve Daines is leaving the House to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by former Senator Max Baucus and now held by John Walsh.

John Lewis and John Driscoll are competing for their party's nomination to advance to November's general election.

Edward O'Brien has more on the Democratic House race featuring two men with backgrounds that each says would serve Montanans well:

mt.gov

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report at the end of March.

The panel, established by the United Nations, continues to point to the vast majority of scientific research indicating human activity is a primary driver of our warming global climate.

In Montana, research suggests a future with lower mountain snowpack, hotter drier summers, and more severe wildfires.

Montana State Parks

Coal export-related rail traffic in Montana is rising and not expected to subside anytime soon. Pacific Northwest-bound train traffic can have impacts on communities, leaving some wondering why more can't be done to mitigate those inconveniences.  In this interview with Edward O'Brien, Montana Coal Board member Tom Towe talks about the options available to Montana communities.
       The Billings attorney is well-versed on the issue as he created the Montana Coal Tax, Montana Coal Tax Trust Fund and Coal Impact Fund some 3 decades ago:

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