Kalispell Sen. Greg Barkus’ bill that would exempt projects funded by the federal stimulus plan from Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requirements had its second committee hearing Friday in the Montana House. MEPA requires, among other things, that state agencies “consider the environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts of proposals like mines, power plants, subdivisions, and timber sales before the project is approved.”
On the Rotunda Report, the state’s GOP blog, Barkus argues that Montana can’t afford to have projects delayed by environmental regulations.
The purpose of this bill is to make sure that we convert these federal stimulus funds directly into projects, and therefore jobs, as soon as possible. I believe it’s important that we don’t delay these projects with paperwork and red tape.
There’s no question that this is the worst I’ve seen our economy in my lifetime. We’ve lost a couple of thousand jobs in the Flathead Valley in the past couple of months. We need to get these funds moving and Montanans working as soon as possible.
There has been chatter at the Legislature that this could be one of the worst years in recent memory for environmentalists. The Great Falls Tribune’s John Adams recently wrote on his blog, The Lowdown:
Environmentalists here in Helena are lamenting the fact that many Democrats seem to be shunning the environment out of fear of being labeled by their GOP counterparts as “anti-development” or not willing to support “good paying jobs.”
Barkus’ bill has already passed the Republican-controlled Senate 29-21. It will be interesting to see what it does in the evenly split House.
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