(Helena) Montana District Court Judge Sherlock signed an order today granting a joint motion from the State of Montana and the conservation groups to cancel a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for January 10th to see if the injunction stopping wolverine trapping should remain in place. Today's order effectively ends the 2012-2013 wolverine trapping season in Montana.
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of several conservation groups in October 2012 in state district court against the State of Montana to end the trapping of wolverines, a candidate species awaiting federal Endangered Species Act ("ESA") protections. Helena Hunters and Anglers, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and 6 other conservation groups' request for a temporary restraining order to suspend wolverine trapping in Montana was granted on November 30, 2012.
"Common sense prevailed" said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who is representing the plaintiffs. "With the 2012-2013 wolverine trapping season effectively over, new leadership at the State, and the likely federal listing of wolverines as a threatened species in the coming months, Montana is well positioned to take a leading role in wolverine conservation in the lower 48. I hope the State takes advantage of this opportunity" added Bishop.
"This is great news that this year's wolverine trapping season is over," said Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer. "Hopefully, wolverine will soon gain the threatened species protections they need so desperately, including a permanent ban on the intentional killing of wolverines."
Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, "We're happy to see the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks make the right decision and agree to keep the restraining order in place. The Bullock administration is getting off to a good start."
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is likely to issue a proposed rule to list wolverine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") in the coming weeks. A proposed rule is expected to be sent to the Federal Register by January 18, 2013. Wolverines will likely be listed under the Endangered Species Act and federally protected before the next wolverine trapping season starts.
Arlene Montgomery,Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan said, "Wolverine are the real winners with this agreement. With the threat of trapping off the table for this season, the agency can now focus on recovering wolverines."
Once prolific across the West, the entire population of wolverine in the Lower 48 states is now down to no more than 250-300 individuals. Population estimates for Montana range from approximately 100 - 175 individuals. A substantial number of the remaining wolverines in Montana are likely unsuccessful breeders or non- breeding sub-adults. The best available science estimates that Montana's "effective population" of wolverines is less than 35. Montana is the only place in the contiguous states that still allows trapping these rare animals.
Much like polar bears, global climate change is imperiling wolverines due to habitat destruction. Wolverines require deep, late-spring snowpack for denning and raising young and cold year- round temperatures. As suitable habitat is fragmented or vanishes, populations become ever more isolated and reproduction becomes much more difficult.
WELC, on behalf of eight conservation groups and an individual, petitioned Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to halt trapping in August, well before the season was slated to start on December 1, 2012. But the State refused to consider the best available science or arguments made in support of the petition. Nor did the State provide any response to public comments asking for the end of wolverine trapping. Consequently, the conservation groups filed suit in state district court in October, challenging continued trapping as a violation of state laws requiring maintenance or restoration of rare animals.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the wolverine as a species that "warrants protection under the federal Endangered Species Act" in 2010 after determining that the already small and vulnerable population will continue to decline. Trapping represents and additional threat to wolverine mortality in Montana. In one study, of the 14 wolverines tracked in the Pioneer Mountains during a three-year period, 6 were killed in traps, including 4 adult males and two pregnant females. As a result of trapping, the wolverine population in the Pioneers was reduced by an estimated 50% Source: http://ncfp.files.wordpress.co...
Over the next several days Media Matters For America (MMFA) will be posting a 4 part series of articles highlighting the growing right wing extremism in Montana's Northwest corner. The series is penned by David Holthouse. Part 1 is titled Homeland On The Range. It focuses on April Gaede's group Pioneer Little Europe, and its growing ties to the nativist anti-government "Patriot" movement.
Part 2 is titled Pioneering Hate, and focuses on the PLE group and their beliefs.
Many Montana bloggers and activists have been sounding the call about these groups and their growing influence in the Flathead and Bitterroot areas for some time now. I'm one of them. The Montana Human Rights Network has been taking lead on this and they have a deep cause for concern. So it's actually nice to see a more national forum in which these topics are discussed. These extremists have more than gained a foothold in Montana. I shouldn't need to remind readers here that the only state level politician from the (Christian) Constitutional Party to have ever been elected in the entirety of the US was Rick Jore, elected to the state legislature from Ronan. But now, 'Republicans' like Derek Skees are carrying the banner of the Patriot movement and supporting the goals of groups like Pioneer Little Europe.
On a related note, Montana Cowgirl today casts the spotlight on the Governors race, where Chuck Baldwin has joined as the (Christian) Constitutional Party's candidate for Lieutenant Governor. It's well worth the read.
UPDATE: I've added links to part three and part four.
Part three is titled Armed and Dangerous. It chronicles the violence inherant in the white supremicist movement and it's ties to the Patriot movement.
Part four is titled Patriot Games, focusing on the political ambitions of the Patriot movement and specifically on Chuck Baldwin.
Huge hat tip to the most excellent RumpRoast Blog. Here's what we're facing, my friends. We can have political discussions high brow, low brow or no brow. We can focus on candidates or issues or attempt to do both. But ultimately the nemesis to whatever we desire is captured right here in video.
Notice please, this guy isn't an idiot. He's probably very intelligent, just drunk off his ass. I guarantee you, however, that he believed the same BS about the Constitution and Ron Paul upon waking in the new Gallatin County Detention Center that he was hurling at the deputies that night. This guy represents a bunch of folk who have a belly-full of self-interest. They don't care about the issues that the emo-progs so focus on. They don't have any respect for the law that prag-progs such as myself hold dear. They believe in self-interest first and only. They often have money and they vote. This is the portrait of the enemy, folks. 2012 will not be an election about Ron Paul. It will be an election carried by those who think themselves better than you, if you don't see them as the threat that they are.
That's one of the central points in a new paper titled "Hunting Wolves In Montana - Where Is The Data?" released by Montana indy wolf biologist Jay S. Mallonee. Mallonee's review paper was published on September 3, 2011, in Nature and Science, a peer reviewed scientific journal, and can be downloaded over at Clean | Green | Sustainable.
I don't disagree with Pogie on very much at all. Yet, today I find myself in that very unenviable position.
Jenna Cederberg of the Missoulian penned an article about the newest darling of the Montana online right, Treasure State Politics. (Sorry, Andy.) Pogie posted on the Twitter that he was uncomfortable with the fact that Jenna did not also mention, promote or show the opposition to TSP being the liberal Montana Missoula blogs, most notably 4 & 20.
Just wondering if the @missoulian has ever written a feature about its good local blog?
The "good" is questionable, but obviously the Missoulian did write a feature about a local blog.
@jennacederberg Confused about your story today about TSP. Seems odd not to mention a single liberal Missoula blog in the piece.
Why? The opposition to TSP is not in Missoula. It's made very clear in the article that TSP stands in opposition to the Montana Cowgirl Blog. Only in the FOX-newsian sense would it make any difference to set a false opposition between TSP and 4 & 20 Blackbirds, or other Missoula blog.
When Jenna asked if Pogie was confused or disappointed, Pogie's response was:
@jennacederberg Maybe I'll settle on surprised. :) 4and20 blackbirds, which is also local to MSO, has so much more traffic and influence.
The traffic part remains open to question, and completely beside the point. That reminds me of all the arguments had in the Montana online about how most comments means most traffic and import, all of which is really kind of crap. The influence part is actually significant, but it was dealt with in the article itself:
"In Montana it's very difficult (to keep a conservative blog) because we have blogs like Montana Cowgirl," James said. That anonymously written blog has previously been traced to the Capitol complex computer system, but the governor's office has denied any knowledge of the blogger's identity.
"I mean, how do you compete with insider information by the people that are making the information?" James said. "I think that the true answer to that was that (conservative information on blogs) just wasn't articulated in a manner people wanted to read. I didn't think the arguments had enough beef behind it."
Notice a couple of things. Jenna supports a narrative that has yet to be proven, and still points to the actual opposition that James is concerned about. Any call for 'fair and balanced' coverage of blogging that mentions 4 & 20 Black birds' is kind of silly in the venue of which this column is written in.
Let's be clear about a couple of things. It's not "web log". It's weblog. An article about a wingnut blog does not require discussion of every other blog in the same local. Pointing out that the Montana Cowgirl blog is run anonymously does not favor mention of 4 & 20 Blackbirds when most of those folk also blog anonymously. They just haven't had the press crawl up their ass quite as much. "Influence" among bloggers is always open to question, until someone comes up with a metric by which it can be measured.
A few weeks ago environmental leaders - including Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and David Suzuki - called for civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada's tar sands, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas. So far, 162 people have been arrested at the White House.
This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age -- it's serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we've seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of 'national interest' to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called 'Keystone XL Pipeline' from Canada's tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities -- First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous -- and though the pipeline companies insist they are using 'state of the art' technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen-hundred-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won't be able to burn that much overnight -- but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate "the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground." In other words, he added, "if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over." The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. "Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck," Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you'd suspect that there's no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she's 'inclined' to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it's because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it's also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton's presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce -- a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined -- has demanded that the administration "move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline," which is not so surprising -- they've also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can 'adapt their physiology' to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we're pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent -- from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they've spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won't be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home -- the earth -- will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it's time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.
We don't have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes -- who would change the composition of the atmosphere -- are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting -- this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip -- if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the 'rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.' We don't understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We'll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don't want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They've led the way so far on climate change -- 10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They've marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it's time for people who've spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won't be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it's past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don't want is a smash up: if you can't control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won't be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested -- half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada -- the decision-makers need to know they're being watched.
Winning this battle won't save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up -- that we'll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we've seen this year. And we're fighting for the political future too -- for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.
As plans solidify in the next few weeks we'll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we're asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you're the praying type. But to us, it's as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you'll join us.
p.s.--Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we're asking isn't easy, and we're very grateful that you're willing even to consider it.
"More than 100 environmental activists from across the country descended on Gov. Brian Schweitzer's office Tuesday to demand that he rescind his support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Exxon Mobile megaload transportation project.
Schweitzer met with the rowdy group of activists in the reception room of his office, but refused to meet their demands. Activists from Northen Rockies Rising Tide, Earth!First and other environmental groups said last week's rupture of an Exxon Mobile pipeline that fouled dozens of miles of the Yellowstone River downstream of Laurel is a prime example of why Schweitzer should "toss big oil out of Montana."
Great Falls Tribune reporter John S. Adams is, apparently, on scene and, according to his Montana Lowdown blog, will "have more on this as the day goes on, including photos and video from today's protest in Gov. Brian Schweitzer's office."
Montana pipeline spill may have carried oil sands crude
"An Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have sometimes carried a heavier and more toxic form of crude than initially thought, federal regulators said on Thursday.
The U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said her office had learned that the pipeline may have been used to carry heavier crude.
"I just found out that apparently, and the regional folks just found out, there is an interconnect on the pipeline that possibly does carry some oil out of Canada," she said in response to a question about tar sands crude in the pipeline....
Tar sands crude may cause more wear and tear on pipes because of its chemical makeup, including corrosive and abrasive agents, said Tom Finch, the pipeline administration's technical services director for the western regional office.
Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of tar sands crude could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture, he said....
Richard Opper, head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said he was surprised to learn the pipeline buried in the streambed of the Yellowstone may sometimes have moved tar sands crude from Canada.
"If the question is, did we know it was carrying tar sands oil? Hell, no," he said in an interview on Thursday. "If companies are changing the kinds of materials in pipelines to mixes that make them more likely they will leak or rupture, that raises huge concerns."
A district court judge has upheld a request by Missoula County and three conservation groups to stop the Kearl Module Transportation Project - and its trucking of giant oilfield equipment modules through western Montana.
Judge Ray Dayton of Anaconda issued his decision to partially grant a preliminary injunction against the Montana Department of Transportation and Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobil shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Dayton ruled that the transportation department was out of line in approving Imperial's proposal to transport an unprecedented 200 Korean-made megaloads of processing equipment to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, via U.S. Highway 12, Highway 200 and other two-lane roads in Montana.
He agreed with the county and its co-plaintiffs - the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club - that MDT violated the Montana Environmental Policy Act because it approved an insufficient environmental assessment.
The plaintiffs maintained that the transportation department "failed to adequately consider impacts of the project and failed to adequately consider reasonable alternatives."
Among his points, Dayton said the impact of turnouts constructed along the route could not be fully determined because MDT couldn't say which ones were permanent and which ones were temporary.
He ruled that the environmental assessment didn't analyze whether construction at a similar cost along an interstate route was a feasible alternate. And he said MDT didn't take a "hard look" at the environmental impacts of the Kearl project because it relied on the work of a private consulting firm, Tetra Tech, which was hired by Imperial Oil.
Dayton said he could not rescind encroachment permits already issued by the transportation department.
"The practical effect of this ruling is that ... activity which requires no further permitting or authorization from MDT may legally proceed," Dayton wrote. "However, as issuance of further 32-J permits, and any other permits ... are hereby preliminarily enjoined, construction would be at Imperial Oil's peril, as it may ultimately be determined that such further permitting will be permanently enjoined."
I follow a bunch of national blogs, mostly progressive, but I don't tend to get involved in their communities or even read their comment threads. I make exceptions for that when those posts and threads deal with Montana or issues important to Montana. Today, I dearly regretted that.
Crooks and Liars is probably one of the finest, information rich, broad-spectrum progressive blogs out there. I was an occasional reader until David Neiwert became a regular poster there. Now I read it almost daily. David had a post up yestereve about the Exxon oil spill in the Yellowstone river. You've certainly read about that by now, on Twitter, the newspapers, blogs local and otherwise. In other words, you know about it if you haven't been holed up in a cabin near Lincoln for 5 days. jhwygirl has been blogging her heart out about it, and kudos to her. So, let's just take it as wrote that you know that a broken Exxon pipeline has spilled an as yet undetermined amount of crude oil into the Yellowstone river, with as yet undetermined environmental and economic impact.
David Neiwert, himself a son of the mountain west, shared this story with the readers at Crooks and Liars. His post:
The post is very similar to what jhwygirl has been sharing with us. What slapped me back were the comments, and if'n you have the urge you probably ought to read them. If you don't, let me share the basic tenor of them here: "Serves you right, you red state assholes!" No concern or commentary about the environmental impact to the region. No exposure of Exxon's duplicity, beyond the all-knowing smugness. No discussion of possible future economic impact in a recessed economy. Nope, just a whole lot of ignorant triumphalism based on the color of our state's outline on the CNN electoral maps.
My personal favorite comments were the one that claims no one in Montana cared about the Gulf oil spill (not even remotely true), so we deserve to suffer, and the one that castigated us all for having voted for Dick Cheney. Montana, Wyoming, all the same when you establish your progressive cred by dissing a red state you know nothing about. There was no mention of Jon Tester and his attempt to get rid of oil and gas subsidies or his attempts to better regulate the petroleum industry. No mention at all of Dennis Rehberg and his eternal support of petroleum subsidies or his donations from that industry. The message in those comments is fairly clear. We're a bunch of rednecks who deserve to have one of the nation's premier rivers choked with oil because John McCain beat Barack Obama here by a whopping 2.4%. Suck on that, red-staters.
There's a few takeaways here for me. One is that blog commenters don't tend to think about what they write any more at large blogs than at small ones. Two, anger at 'the other' trumps rational thought just as much among progressives as any other grouping, and it's seemingly terribly delicious to put that anger on display. There's a passel more thoughts but the reader can decide what they will.
Forget climate change, writes Associate Editor Nicole Allan. Democrats have invited a potential political problem ever since Montana's own Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Simpson championed the wolf rider, which delisted the gray wolf in the northern U.S.
Allan points out that the rider has created two major problems. The first is a rush of other proposals to delist species that may hold up development. Here's one example:
Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and James Inhofe (Okla.) have proposed amendments to an economic-development reauthorization bill that would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from extending ESA protections to two species prevalent in oil and gas country.
The other problem is something that's already riled some of Tester's former supporters.
By courting Western voters, however, the Democratic Party runs the risk of alienating its environmentalist base of donors and activists.
One of the reasons I predominately hung around with westerners at NN11 was that I sensed that talking with easterners about Montana and the mountain west left them slightly unnerved. I don't possess any psychic powers that tell me exactly why, but it seems to boil down to a trust issue. I get that they have a problem grokking our concept of space, and they distrust our more conservative ways and leanings. That's all good. But there was also a particular odor of worry, bordering on fear. It's not just me that senses such a thing.
It might have something to do with AP articles like the one that broke today. "Extremists finding fertile ground in Northwest US". Dateline Kalispell. Lovely. Gawker, of course, pokes their fun at what Montanans are all too aware of. I don't have a problem with any particular fact in the article, or even that it was written. The reality of where we live is what it is. Montana has a tradition of at least the illusion of letting people make there way as best they can. It's ironically humorous in the extreme that in the midst of a Google search for this article, one finds the Daily Interlake going on about horse races. In fact, the only Montana newspaper touching on what has been widely published across the nation is the Missoulian. That might change, but I'm cynical enough not to count on it.
One of the people I ran into at NN11 was David Neiwert. It was such a whirlwind of an event that when I talked with him on Thursday night, I didn't even recognize the man, truly to my shame. David is the online authority of western militia movements and domestic terrorism, founder of the award winning website Orcinus, and now a blogger at Crooks and Liars, author of In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest and The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. If it sounds like I'm going out of my way to promote David's work, I really kind of am. He is that informative, he knows the mountain west intimately and he clearly sees the name Montana and Idaho will bare into our futures, that name which colors our progressives as something ... different? We briefly discussed the ongoing Bergert incident. David posited that if Bergert were smart, he would head for an urban area and blend into the diverse crowding. I don't see a man that ambushes police officers doing that for very long. He wants his war, and he'll have it. Bergert simply can't contain his angry racism, and David and I probably agree on that. We also briefly discussed the progressive online in Montana. He likes Montana Cowgirl, as I have grown to do as well. One thing you have to admit. The Cowgirl (or they) have pulled no punches when calling out the racism and xenophobia coming out of the northwest in this state.
Still, this is the brand we get to wear. Every single person I talked with at NN11 has seen Brian Schweitzer brand bills with his VETO irons, and yet almost none know what bills were branded. Thank you YouTube. What they also know is that there is a really white cancer growing in Montana, and they fear it. They should. We should. A guy who used to comment at DailyKos was a Native American who moved east. In every thread tagged "Montana" he would decry the state as racist. An African American at Kos, in a post about the racism in San Fransisco, posted a comment about how the most racist place he'd ever lived was the year he spent in Missoula, Montana. Everybody seems to know our name, and it isn't a good one. I call that "room for improvement".
UPDATE: It was noted in the first breakout session I attended at NN11 that the strength of the Tea Party rise was it's populist sentiment blended with the acceptance of racism. The seeds of this go back to the Reagan revolution. 'One needn't feel ashamed of being angry at welfare queens, because those dark takers of your effort are ruining the country.' It's not hard to figure out where those folks are acquiring the support for their awful ideas:
Last fall news broke that the University of Montana was planning to construct a $16 million wood-burning biomass plant on campus next to the Aber Hall dormitory. UM officials claimed the biomass plant would save UM $1 million annually and protect Missoula's air quality by reducing emissions over the existing natural gas heating system.
As interested citizens, we attended the university's biomass "poster presentation" last December, which, unfortunately, raised more serious questions than it answered. So we continued to ask questions and research the proposal. In March, we even conducted an "open records" search of UM's biomass project file, pouring over hundreds of documents and emails between UM officials and representatives of Nexterra, a Canadian biomass boiler manufacturer, and McKinstry, a Seattle energy services company. Suffice to say, our records search turned up even more troubling questions, especially related to costs, maintenance and emissions.
As the Missoulian reported in April, information in UM's air quality permit application to the Missoula City-County Health Department showed that "Contrary to previous claims by UM administrators, the university's proposed biomass boiler will not reduce emissions to levels below that of natural gas. In fact, UM's proposed state-of-the-art biomass gasification plant will produce nearly twice as much nitrogen dioxide as its existing natural gas boilers - and in some cases, will release three times as much particulate matter." The emissions are higher than what McKinstry's feasibility study predicted.
Our records search also turned up a document showing that the biomass plant would also increase emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by 40 percent or more over the existing natural gas system.
Obviously, Missoula is prone to severe inversions and air stagnation, especially during winter, when the greatest load would be on the biomass system. We found a UM biomass grant application that stated, "The Missoula Valley's constrained topography presents ideal research conditions for long term analysis of environmental impacts of efficient woody biomass boiler combustion." Do we really want to risk Missoula's air quality for the sake of research?
It's also been difficult to get an accurate assessment from UM of the biomass plant's up-front and long-term costs, something all Montana taxpayers deserve. For starters, we noticed in the project file that in April 2010 the cost of the biomass plant was $10 million. By July, the cost went to $14 million. Now it sits at $16 million. What will the final cost be? UM's financial pro forma also shows that during the first 20 years the biomass plant would need nearly $10 million for additional operation and maintenance expenses over the existing natural gas system, and another $17 million for the 20 year period after that.
The pro forma is also troubling in other aspects. It over-estimates the cost of natural gas, while under-estimating the cost of biomass fuel trucked to campus, especially given rising diesel costs. The pro forma also completely zeros out all natural gas expenses and maintenance costs, even though UM now admits that a natural gas boiler would be used during cold winter days to augment the biomass system, and also used from May to September, when the biomass system is too powerful to use.
Further complicating the picture, UM realized during the permitted process that its existing natural gas boilers are in violation of air pollution limits. The fix will cost around $500,000. And UM's contract with McKinstry was amended recently, meaning that UM is already contractually committed to McKinstry for $532,000 just for project development.
Finally, a few weeks ago, the Missoulian reported that the UM workers who run the campus heating plant voiced collective opposition to the UM wood-burning biomass plant. "We as individuals have tens of years of work history around biofuel boilers. We do not believe management gave us much credit for our views, experience and opinions. Had they listened, they would not have gone forward with this proposal," wrote the UM workers. Furthermore, UM heating plant supervisor, Mike Burke, had this to say, "There has been a debilitating aspect throughout this whole vetting process by certain decision-makers - to not let facts get in the way of the agenda. I sang this proposal's virtues for a long while out of a sense of loyalty ... but if this proposal goes south, it will give the University of Montana a black eye. I wouldn't want that to happen. I owe this institution to try and forestall what I consider a calamity."
It is our belief that all of these significant issues need to be fully analyzed and rechecked, not just by the biomass project's supporters, but also by the Board of Regents, independent of McKinstry and UM. Guarantees of performance by McKinstry need to be carefully scrutinized, as other colleges have paid the price for poorly written contracts or poorly vetted companies.
At the end of the day, Montana taxpayers deserve to see accurate, updated financial information from UM concerning all aspects of the biomass plant, including the initial $16 million price tag and up to $27 million needed for additional operation and maintenance expenses over forty years. And Missoula's citizens have a right to expect that the University of Montana would not risk Missoula's fragile air quality by needlessly increasing emissions over present levels.
Matthew Koehler is executive director of the WildWest Institute; Ian M. Lange is a professor emeritus, Department of Geosciences at the University of Montana; and Dr. John Snively is a retired dentist. All three live in Missoula.
Make sure to check out the latest issue of MEIC's Capitol Monitor, which concentrates on bills affecting land use in Montana. As MEIC put it, "Needless to say, there's mostly bad news. The Republican majorities are running wild in favor of unregulated development...and the costs could come home to roost at your house if these measures become law."
There are two major bills (HB 542 and SB 379) headed for Gov. Brian Schweitzer's desk. According to MEIC, "HB 542 is bad for agriculture, bad for the public, and bad for local governments." Meanwhile SB 379 is basically Plum Creek Timber Co's anti-zoning bill. E-mails and calls to the Governor asking him to veto both bills are our last, best shot to derail these measures.
(The following essay was written by Howie Wolke, a Montana-based wilderness guide/outfitter and long-time advocate for wilderness and other wild habitats. Wolke is the author of two books, "Wilderness on the Rocks" and "The Big Outside," which he co-authored with Dave Foreman. This essay originally appeared on the blog of Wilderness Watch - mk.)
Nobody knows how many species inhabit this lovely green planet, but estimates range from 10 to 30 million. Yet just one of these species, Homo sapiens, now consumes or otherwise utilizes over half of the plant biomass produced each year on Earth, funneling it into an ever-expanding human population plus related support structures and activities.
Nearly 7 billion humans are creating the greatest mass extinction event since the late Cretaceous Era, when an asteroid crashed into the Earth. As the Earth's human population grows at the rate of about 76 million additional humans per year, we alter the Earth's climate, deplete its fisheries, pollute its atmosphere, oceans, rivers and soils, and continually carve civilization into its remaining wild habitats. Overpopulation is at the root of nearly all of our problems, yet few work to tame this beast. That includes the U.S. government, which has no population policy.
Here in the United States, we are slowly increasing automotive fuel economy and building better energy efficiency into new structures. Renewable energy industries are growing. Yet in 2010, we spewed out more carbon and methane than ever before. Why? It's simple. The technological gains are being overwhelmed by population growth (over 300 million and increasing).
Historically, as humanity grows and spreads, true wilderness has been the first thing to go. Forest are cut, soils plowed, prairies and deserts fenced and over-grazed, rivers dammed, and various habitats are dug up and drilled for oil, gas, coal and metals. Also, millions of miles of roads and highways dissect the landscape. And of course, cities and suburbs sprawl across the planet, gobbling up habitat like a hungry teen-ager gobbles up lunch.