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Environmental Advocates Criticize Montana Lawsuit Against EPA

Coal miner. Credit: joebelanger/iStock
Coal miner. Credit: joebelanger/iStock
October 26, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. - Environmental groups are speaking out about Montana Attorney General Tim Fox's decision to join a lawsuit that would block the "carbon rule" section of President Obama's Clean Power Plan.

On Friday, Montana joined 23 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency saying the plan to force states to cut power-plant emissions is an unconstitutional overreach of federal authority.

But Ed Gulick, chair of the Clean Energy Task Force of with the Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agricultural group in Billings, says the state needs to move away from fossil fuels but do it in a responsible way.

"The big challenge we have now is to work to make sure the transition is done in a real, just manner that hard-working Montanans who are working in affected industries are able to retrain for the clean-energy economy," he says.

The Clean Power Plan would require Montana's electricity generating plants to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Montana has five coal-fired power plants, which are the largest source of industrial air pollution in the state.

The Attorney General said the carbon rule would cause job losses and could cost billions to implement leading to a spike in electricity rates. But Gulick says these concerns are unfounded.

"Wind power is less expensive and there are certainly at least as many jobs in the clean-energy industry as there are from fossil fuel-based sources," says Gulick. "So, there will be some bumps in the road as we make a transition to a cleaner economy but I would not expect to see a loss in jobs or an increase in electricity costs."

The Clean Power Plan is now the law of the land. Barring a successful court challenge, the state will have to come up with a transition plan, or the feds will step in and enforce the rule on their terms.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT