Montana Department of Environmental Quality

Air quality is poor across Montana due to wildfires burning in the western U.S.
Montana DEQ

Smoke levels across most of Montana spiked today, with air quality readings reaching "Very Unhealthy" in several locations, including Missoula, Great Falls, and the Flathead Valley; and reaching the highest warning level, "Hazardous" in Hamilton.

Meteorologist Kristen Martin with Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the smoke could get even worse before it starts to get better over the weekend.

Smoky air is Montana is forcing Montana's student atheletes inside or limiting their practices.
Josh Burnham

This year, fire season has collided with the school year all over the west, especially in northwest and north central Montana, where the smoke from blazes as far away as Washington has left the air loaded with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe, forcing teachers and coaches to decide whether to send students out for recess or practice, or keep them indoors.

Critics of the Clean Power Plan worry about its impacts on coal development and jobs.
BLM

News reports are saying that President Obama’s Clean Power Plan has set new targets for Montana that are twice as large as those floated last year in a draft of the plan. But the head of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, Tom Livers, says it’s still unclear to him what exactly the new thresholds are.

The plan the White House unveiled today to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide is meeting with strong and broad criticism in Montana.

Alan Kirk, mine permitting manager, and Bob Jacko, vice president of operations for Tintina show plans for the Black Butte Mine.
Steve Jess

About 50 miles east of Helena, in White Sulphur Springs, residents are weighing the benefits that a new copper mine could bring to their community: about 200 new jobs along with millions of dollars to spur business growth. Opponents of the mine say Montana risks losing something even more valuable, one of its last unspoiled rivers.

Emigrant Peak, near the area of the proposed mine exploration
Flickr user Sean Wolf (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Caroline Byrd describes south-central Montana's scenic Emigrant Gulch in the Paradise Valley as Yellowstone National Park's "northern backdoor".

"It's got wildlife. It's got water. It's got scenic beauty and it's got real ecological importance for keeping the whole place knit together," says Byrd.

Byrd, the executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition says that's no place for a mine.

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company
Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

To many Columbia Falls residents the full closure of the local aluminum smelter was more a matter of when than if.

That question was answered with certainty this week when Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced that it's permanently shuttering the plant.

Local real estate agent Bill Dakin say this development was a long time coming.

"This announcement, finally, an honest announcement that this plant will never refine aluminum again, is kind of a new day here."

Senate: Public Needs More Info On Montana Pipelines

Feb 25, 2015
Courtesy Bridger Pipeline LLC

Senate Majority Leader Matt Rosendale of Glendive says the public should have more information about the pipelines that cross Montana’s navigable rivers. A unanimous Senate agrees.

Senator Matt Rosendale of Glendive says he wanted to find out more about pipelines after crude oil poured into the Yellowstone River last month. It was the second time this happened since 2011.

News Roundup, Week 4 At The Montana Legislature

Feb 2, 2015
William Marcus

In the middle of the fourth week of the 64th Montana Legislature, Gov. Steve Bullock took the rostrum in the House of Representatives with a big smile.

“The state of our state is strong,” Bullock said, beginning his State of the State address.

Bullock touted his fiscal discipline and pushed his big legislative priorities, getting multiple standing ovations from Democrats and occasional claps from a few Republicans.

Courtesy Timberline Resources

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit for an underground gold mine south of Butte Monday.

The permitting process for the Butte Highlands Mine started in 2010, and Timberline Resources, the Idaho-based company behind it has already been exploring on the privately owned site.

Kristi Ponozzo with Montana DEQ says the mining permit "includes modifications to the proposed action...for mining. Under that alternative we are requiring additional water quality monitoring."

Courtesy EPA

Efforts to clean up the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Company smelter have hit a snag.

State and federal officials will brief the residents in Columbia Falls Thursday.

Montana’s Department of Environmental quality wanted to speed up the process that could qualify the closed smelter for federal “Superfund” cleanup money.

Before state inspectors could assess the problem in detail, the company would have to sign a consent decree, according to DEQ attorney William Kirley.

Governor Steve Bullock's longtime Chief of Staff is leaving and is being replaced by Tracy Stone-Manning, the current Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Bullock's outgoing chief of staff, Tim Burton, is leaving to lead the Montana League of Cities and Towns; a nonprofit association of 129 Montana municipalities. Burton says Stone-Manning is an excellent choice.

A new study on the probability of more landslides at the Berkeley Pit Superfund site in Butte will be made public soon.

Last week Silver Bow County commissioners got a tour of the Butte Superfund site, led by Steve Walsh, an executive with Montana Resources. That company is actively mining for copper and molybdenum at the Continental Pit in Butte, but has operations at Berkeley Pit as well.

From a point high on the Berkeley Pit’s rim, Walsh pointed out where the company used to be more active there until last year.

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.

Kudos to Governor Bullock and the MT DEQ for their work on carbon pollution at power plants.

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."

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

Billings residents and Missoulians are next in line to weigh in on Montana's climate plan. Governor Steve Bullock asked the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to analyze potential ways the state can comply with E.P.A's proposed Clean Power Plan.

State regulators were in Colstrip yesterday, the heart of Montana coal country, for a public meeting on a draft rule limiting carbon pollution in Montana.

Montana Associated Press reporter Matthew Brown attended yesterday's meeting at Colstrip High School.

mt.gov

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced this week the first phase of the Clark Fork River cleanup near Warm Springs is mostly complete.

In this feature interview with Edward O'Brien, D-E-Q Director Tracy Stone-Manning, says this first of the 15-year project was a tremendous success.

January is radon awareness month.
    The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is encouraging Montanans to test for and - if necessary - address any radon issues.
     Radon is a colorless and odorless gas. Paul Tschida of D-E-Q's Energy and Pollution Bureau tells Edward O'Brien that radon exposure can present serious health issues:

DEQ closes own building for lead contamination

Oct 28, 2013
Dan Boyce

Nearly 100 Montana Department of Environmental Quality workers were sent home on paid leave Monday after inspections found elevated levels of lead in one of the department’s own buildings.

“The irony is not lost on us,” said DEQ Director Tracy Stone-Manning said regarding contaminants in Helena’s old armory at the north end of Last Chance Gulch, where DEQ now houses its division responsible for environmental cleanup.