Montana Governor Signs Bill Banning State Agencies From Analyzing Climate Impacts
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed a bill into law that stops the state from taking climate impacts into consideration in its analysis of projects like power plants and coal mines.
An extremely controversial measure, House Bill 971 (HB 971) drew 1,000 comments during the most recent legislative session, 95 percent of which expressed opposition to the proposed bill, reported Montana Free Press.
The new law bans state regulators like the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from including climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions analyses when conducting comprehensive reviews of large projects, both inside and outside state borders.
“Climate change is real, it matters, the climate is part of our environment, and we cannot ignore the changes that are occurring,” said Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center, who anticipates HB 971 will be the subject of a constitutional lawsuit, as Montana Free Press reported.
The foundation for the bill, which was signed into law on May 10, is an old law which bans the state from considering “actual or potential impacts that are regional, national, or global in nature” in environmental reviews.
Environmental and climate groups argued that the measure frustrates the ability of the state to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing Montana’s snowpack to melt, which reduces much-needed water from streams in the summer and fall and contributes to more intense wildfires, as well as flooding.
Opponents of the measure said most Montana residents are in favor of substantive climate action and believe in human-caused climate change.
“Our families are already suffering from an increase in the number of sweltering summer days, longer wildfire and smoke seasons, and historic drought,” Winona Bateman, executive director of Families for a Livable Climate, wrote in an email to Montana Free Press.
Those opposing the measure said it was overreach by the legislature because it would interfere with the rights of citizens to know all impacts of a proposed project, reported Montana Public Radio.
Three-fifths of those polled in last year’s Conservation in the West poll of 416 registered voters in Montana called for a renewable energy transition and said there was enough evidence of climate change to warrant action.
Some proponents of the measure, like the Montana Petroleum Association and the Treasure State Resources Association, said the proper place for regulations like HB 971 is under federal regulatory frameworks like the Clean Air Act, according to Montana Free Press.
“I am not sure how Gov. Gianforte imagines we will do our part to address these growing impacts, or pay for them, if we’re not working to eliminate the root cause. Why would we wait for federal regulations to be part of the solution?” Bateman told Montana Free Press.
Gianforte expressed a belief in human-caused climate change in an interview last year with Montana Free Press.
“Ignoring [climate change] doesn’t make it better. It will only make things worse and make it more difficult and expensive to deal with later,” Hedges said, as Montana Free Press reported.
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