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Montanans Visit D.C.: Clean Power Plan is in State Hands

A Bozeman solar-industry businessman and a Livingston mother traveled to Washington to advocate for the Clean Power Plan. Credit: RosePosie/
A Bozeman solar-industry businessman and a Livingston mother traveled to Washington to advocate for the Clean Power Plan. Credit: RosePosie/
September 14, 2015

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Congress is back to work, and it's expected there will be debate about the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which was finalized during the August recess.

A group of about 50 business and health leaders traveled to D.C. to voice support for the plan.

Orion Thornton who owns a commercial solar energy company, Onsite Energy Inc. in Bozeman, was one of them.

He met with the state's delegation to talk about his vision for the state to take ownership of the plan. He says it offers the state a way to revitalize in light of coal-industry declines as demand falls.

"Whereas, we're seeing the opposite with industries like solar electric industry or wind industry, we're seeing more and more jobs," says Thornton. "The scales are already tipping, I just think we need to find a way to transition people over to those new sectors."

The plan requires that carbon pollution be reduced by about 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

The EPA states the plan's public health benefits are strong. Michelle Uberuaga field manager with Moms Clean Air Force in Livingston was also on the trip to underscore what that means for Montanans.

"Main reasons we're advocating for state plans and more work, because of the health impacts. Asthma sickens an estimated 20,700 kids and 71,400 adults."

Criticism of the plan includes accusations that the EPA overstepped its authority and concerns about loss of employment in the coal industry.

Thornton says job worries are valid in Montana, especially in Colstrip. But he sees the Clean Power Plan as a way to plan to make sure communities are kept whole through use of the Clean Power Plan's flexibility and tailored plans that meet Montana's unique needs.

"Part of that plan should be incorporating training, job-placement," says Thornton. "We can really think ahead and that's really the advantage of the Clean Power Plan, is that we can really draft it in a way that works for Montana."

He also points out the EPA and other independent analyses show a net increase in jobs from implementation of the plan.

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