Montana Voices: Why we’re going to Gillette to defend the Clean Power Plan

Montana is on the frontlines of some of the worst impacts caused by the changing climate. Large, intense wildfires are incredibly expensive to fight, limit our outdoor opportunities, keep tourists away, and impact the health of thousands upon thousands of Montanans, especially the young and the elderly.

More frequent droughts impact farm and ranch family incomes. Low late summer flows and high stream temperatures lead to stream closures, limit fishing opportunities, impact our guiding and outfitting industry, and in some rivers have caused massive fish die-offs like the PKD disease outbreak in the Yellowstone River.

With all these impacts so apparent and damaging to Montana’s way of life, you would think the Trump administration would be clamoring for actions to reduce greenhouse gases to address the lead causes of climate change.

Shockingly, the federal government is doing just the opposite. Natural resource agencies are being instructed to scrub climate change science from their websites, President Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement (leaving us the only country in the world not participating in it.), and maybe most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

Simply put, the Clean Power Plan is one of the most important policies that the government has put forth to address climate change. It would limit carbon emissions from power plants, the largest source of carbon pollution in the country, and would set flexible and achievable standards that give each state the opportunity to design its own most cost-effective path toward cleaner energy sources. It would cut the electric sector’s carbon pollution by 32 percent nationally by 2030. This would be equivalent to removing the annual carbon emissions from 70 percent of the nation’s cars or avoiding carbon pollution from yearly electricity use of every home in America.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan is unacceptable. The three hottest global years on record have all come in the last three years. Nearly every scientific study points to greenhouse gasses as the reason for increased temperatures. For the federal government to abdicate responsibility in addressing the issue is reckless, illegal, and immoral. We must make our voices heard and let them know it is unacceptable.

Luckily, opportunities to speak up exist. As part of the repeal process, the EPA is accepting written comments via their website. They are also hosting a series of listening sessions around the country. One of these listening sessions will be in Gillette, Wyoming Tuesday, March 27th. It will be a long trek, but climate change is so important that we’ve decided that our voices must be heard.

We will be joining other concerned citizens on a bus making our way East on I-90 from Missoula through Butte, Bozeman, Livingston, and Billings all the way to Gillette. On our journey, we will hear stories from firefighters about the dangers of being on the frontlines of dangerous and unpredictable wildfire, from moms about how our government is failing to protect our children’s health and futures, and from Montanans who are very concerned about the impacts of climate change to our state’s wildlife, recreation, and economy.

The personal stories about climate change impacts are too numerous to count. Real people are facing the catastrophic impacts of a changing climate. Concrete science-based solutions like the Clean Power Plan are needed. Real leadership is needed. By denying science and reality, the federal government is not leading on this issue. This is not acceptable. We need to make our voices heard. To contribute your comments, search online for “EPA CPP repeal.”

Christi Cooper, Bozeman, owner of Barrelmaker Productions, Emmy-award winning cinematographer & Moms Clean Air Force Supermom. Skip Kowalski, Stevensville, past president and current board member of Montana Wildlife Federation. Cory Beattie, Great Falls, former wildland firefighter, currently studying climate change science at UM.