Every two years, when the Legislature meets to weigh and discuss the many issues that affect Montanans, the Senate Energy committee, which we serve on, has to shape the policies that will determine Montana’s energy future. It’s disheartening to report that this session the Senate Energy Committee has decided that energy future should rely on outdated resources that could leave a legacy of polluted water and air.
The delegates to the 1972 state constitutional convention had the foresight to establish that Montanans have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The clean air we breathe and the clean water we drink are all protected under our state constitution, and it’s foolish to think that continuing to rely on traditional resources – and turning our backs on a new energy future – will not put our constitutional right of a clean environment in jeopardy.
It’s also foolish to pass legislation on energy issues without addressing the elephant in the room: climate change. To argue that climate change isn’t a legitimate issue is to deny the legitimacy of decades of climate science and scientific observation. In a state like Montana, where we absolutely treasure our National Parks and outdoor way of life, and where many of our fellow citizens depend on agriculture, climate change and the health of our environment should be the forefront of any conversation regarding Montana’s energy future. For too long have we avoided addressing climate change at the detriment to our clean water and air.
Clean, renewable energy is critical to a sustainable energy future for our country and the world. Investments in solar and wind are not only financially profitable, but also bring with them substantial reductions in our carbon footprint. Most Montanans probably see solar or wind energy as an easy way to pare down their energy bills and care for the planet. Unfortunately, the Republicans in the Senate Energy Committee don’t see these energy strategies as positive, but as negative and “uneconomic.”
Instead of diversifying our energy portfolio, they are making a concerted effort to roll back the progress we have made in developing renewables. Instead, they want to rely on traditional energy sources that leave a legacy of pollution and reclamation. Not only has the Republican majority on the committee killed any attempt to pass proactive renewable energy policy, but they have launched an all-out assault on clean energy. This backward thinking cannot do justice to Montana’s outdoor legacy.
We encourage our friends and neighbors in our communities to reach out to the Senate Energy Committee and tell the Republicans to stop these harmful attacks on clean, renewable energy.
Democratic Missoula Sens. Dick Barrett, Sue Malek and Mary McNally all serve on the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.