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EPA Clean Power Plan: Montana Connections to Coal, Fish – and Corn

The EPA released its final Clean Power Plan on Monday. Cold water fisheries in Montana have been affected by climate change because of reduced water volume, increased pollution and warming water temperatures. Credit: National Park Service.
The EPA released its final Clean Power Plan on Monday. Cold water fisheries in Montana have been affected by climate change because of reduced water volume, increased pollution and warming water temperatures. Credit: National Park Service.
August 4, 2015

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – The EPA's Clean Power Plan was finalized Monday, and the decision is connected to Montana's energy industry, agriculture and recreation.

The plan requires states to reduce carbon emissions to slow the pace of climate change. While the plan allows states to decide how to do it, most of the changes will come at the smokestacks of existing coal-burning power plants.

Chris Christiaens, legislative specialist at the Montana Farmers Union, says the ag industry is well aware of how earlier seasons and hotter, drier weather is affecting crops. He says winter wheat weights have changed drastically.

"While it looks like you're harvesting 60- and 70-bushel winter wheat, you're actually harvesting 25 bushels per acre, which is really difficult," he says.

Christiaens says he saw something this year he never thought he'd see in Montana – and it happened because the climate has changed.

"In my area, where I was born and raised, four miles from us we have a neighbor who has corn, about 60 acres, and it's doing well," he says.

Dan Vermillion, chairman of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, says the state's world-renowned trout fishing is deeply connected to climate change. Blue ribbon trout need abundant cold, clean water, and every part of the equation is affected by a warmer climate and earlier seasons.

He describes wildlife and fishing as the "economic lifeblood" for many small Montana communities.

"Certainly where I live, in Livingston, it is one of the driving, if not the driving factor to our tourism economy," he says. "Since the turn of the century in 2000, we've had significant river closures. When that happens, it really affects people's decision-making when they decide whether they're going to come back to Montana."

Critics of the plan claim it will take jobs from Montana and mean higher electricity bills. Counter-claims point to the opportunity to develop more renewable energy sources.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT