Caven Wade

(UM Legislative News Service) Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed into law a bill that repeals sections of the state environmental law that supporters of the bill say were incomplete.

Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby, sponsored House Bill 170, which passed the House of Representatives on a party-line vote 67-32 on Jan. 23, and then by the Senate 34-16 on Mar. 15.

“Although this wasn’t one of the original red-tape removal bills that the governor had come up with, they did come in and support it heavily because frankly it basically went right along the line of what they were doing,” Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, said when presenting the bill to the Senate.

Small said the two sections being removed haven’t been able to keep up over time, and are already covered in other sections of law, which makes them redundant. He said that this bill is pretty much a clean-up bill for the state's environmental policy.

Sen. Chris Pope, D-Bozeman, spoke against the bill and said that one of the sections being deleted deals with all aspects of the state's energy from past to future, and it would be a travesty to remove a section that helps with the development of all Montanans energy resources.

“For those of us that track energy development, I think it goes without saying that this is a time of remarkable technology change in our energy economy here in the Treasure State which in turn has brought significant market disruption with direct effects to our economy,” Pope said.

Pope said that the sections being removed are important because they have language that outlines reducing dependence on oil from “unfriendly countries,” and they allow the exploration of alternative forms of energy like nuclear and hydrogen power.