The Montana Legislature’s war on the environment is really an assault on every citizen
Hills near the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Garryowen, Montana (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).
In this session of the Legislature, the supermajority/Freedom Caucus declared war. War on the courts and judiciary, on trans and LGTBQIA+ people, on drag folks, on public education, on women’s right to control their bodies and reproductive choices, on parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children, on freedom of the press, on freedom of speech and on the right of suffrage and initiative. They banned books, they banned one form of social media, they practiced medicine and they bullied doctors, they adopted the Biblical, albeit false, definition of sex, they rejected science, and they thumbed their collective noses at the Constitution and at nearly every group and citizen that was not wearing a MAGA hat–or a tinfoil one.
One could write an essay on any one of these wars. But the one I want to discuss is the supermajority/Freedom Caucus’ war on our environment.
This session the legislature passed, and the Governor blindly signed, more than two dozen bills adversely affecting Montana’s land, air, and water. The reach of this legislation is simply staggering—indeed, too broad to discuss in detail.
But to give the flavor: The supermajority/Freedom Caucus passed laws exempting developments, subdivisions and various oil and gas and mining activities from evaluation and environmental review; they weakened water quality protections; they prohibited local governments from restricting various unhealthful petroleum and gas operations; they gerrymandered PSC districts and hijacked the Montana Consumer Counsel; they prohibited the agencies charged with protecting the environment from considering climate change and other environmental degradations and impacts when issuing permits; they gave large corporate power interests the ability to have power plants pre-approved by the PSC; they imposed additional registration fees on electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles and they added a tax on the use of public EV charging stations; they weakened the Montana Environmental Protection Act and imposed a “pay to play” system; they restricted access to the courts to remedy environmental abuses and made that process more costly; they empowered certain extractive industries to expand without environmental analysis and public review; and they exempted developments from evaluating their water impacts.
With this backdrop, keep in mind that every one of us has a fundamental, inalienable right to a clean and healthful environment and to seek our safety, health, and happiness in all lawful ways under Article II, Section 3 of Montana’s Constitution.
And, equally important, Article IX, section 1 mandates—meaning requires—that the state, and each person (including corporations) maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations. Moreover, the legislature is required to provide for the enforcement of this duty and remedies to protect against the degradation of our environment and natural resources.
The supermajority/Freedom Caucus’ war, waged with more than two dozen bills trashing the environment, is not only antithetical to the Constitutional rights and mandatory obligations discussed above, it is a violation of every public official’s oath to support, protect and defend Montana’s Constitution—ending with, “so help me God.” Article III, section 3.
How ironic: These self-proclaimed white nationalist super-Christians, bent on shoving their belief system down every citizen’s throat, have, each, violated the oath they swore to the God they profess to venerate. They revel in protecting the unborn while destroying the lives, safety, and health—the environment–of this and future generations of the living. Call it what it is: A total and complete hypocrisy.
Keep these facts in mind when you hear members of the 2023 legislature pontificate about all the good things they accomplished.
Indeed, keep in mind they waged war on the environment belonging to every single one of us.
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