Singing the blues about climate change rules • Daily Montanan

First, let’s start with a quick history lesson. In 1970, when Republicans and Democrats agreed that clean air and clean water were critical to the health and well-being of American citizens, President Richard Nixon, a Republican, created the Environmental Protection Agency, charged with protecting public health from harmful, toxic pollutants.

Flash forward 54 years to the present: on May 1, during a US House of Representatives subcommittee and then on May 2, during a US Senate committee hearing on the new EPA Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rules on toxic emissions , two Montanans’ Congressional delegation – Congressman Ryan Zinke and Senator Jon Tester – have done a pretty good job of beating up EPA Administrator Michael Regan with a hard line of questions – just because he’s doing his job – which is protecting people against toxic air and water pollution and its adverse health effects. Later, Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Matt Rosendale also joined Zinke and Tester, issuing press statements opposing the updated EPA MATS rules.

Is it possible that every member of Montana’s congressional delegation (three Republicans and one Democrat) does not know that there is no safe level for humans of arsenic and lead emitted in abundance (in tons) from the Colstrip power plant? These deadly toxins cause profound, often irreversible health effects from chronic exposure. Other pollutants are also emitted – chromium, manganese, nickel, selenium, none of which are good for human lungs to breathe. And let’s not forget greenhouse gases, which are emitted in tons and are also not good for the health of the planet.

Not a single Montana congressional delegation has demonstrated knowledge of the Clean Air Act and the political courage needed to protect the health of their constituents in Montana. They should all be ashamed. Instead, they sounded like shills or lobbyists for one of the utilities that own Colstrip – NorthWestern Energy.

Later, NorthWestern CEO Brian Bird joined the action, complaining about the new EPA rules and how expensive it would be to install the equipment needed to clean up the air pollutants emitted at Colstrip. Gee, it’s so unpleasant to read about a highly paid utility CEO whining — especially the CEO of an investor-owned, for-profit utility that last year, thanks to an astonishingly large gift from the Republican-controlled Legislature of Montana in 2023, a huge tax cut – and had to pay about $36 million less in property taxes in 2023, a 20% drop from 2022. And let’s not forget that, by law, NWE also gets a guaranteed return on stock profits .

The EPA didn’t come up with the new rules for cleaning up Colstrip’s toxic emissions on NWE and the other Colstrip owners out of thin air. These rules, as part of the Clean Air Act of 1970, amended in 1977 and 1990, are reviewed and updated every eight years as technology to protect public health evolves. There has been enough warning. In fact, most utilities have already complied and are still managing to generate cleaner, affordable electricity, giving Colstrip the infamous distinction of having the highest emissions of toxic air pollution. in the nation as measured via filterable particulate emissions.

The reality is that in order to keep their profits rolling in, NorthWestern Energy has bet big on the wrong horse at Colstrip – the dirty, more expensive way to generate electricity instead of cleaner, healthier and cheaper ways for consumers than renewables with battery backup. Instead, NWE is now singing the blues that its profits will be negatively affected because it has to install equipment that will clean the air and protect the lungs and health of Montana taxpayers – while also threatening Montana taxpayers that electricity will even will be even more expensive than American taxpayers. the 28% increase NWE gave to Montana taxpayers last year – all with the blessing of the five Republican members of Montana’s Public Service Commission.

It’s time for NorthWestern Energy to wake up – and for Montana’s Congressional delegation and the PSC to wake up too – and realize that many Montanans want clean air and clean water to protect their health, their children’s health, and the planet’s health . as clean, affordable electricity. Don’t keep betting on old, dirty, expensive technology to generate the affordable electricity Montanans want and need.