Guest view: Montana doesn’t need I-186

News Type: State, , Source: Montana Standard
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After reading David Brooks’ recent editorial, one thing is clear as a mountain stream: Propaganda will be the chosen vehicle in which Brooks and his supporters deliver Initiative 186 (I-186) to Montana in November. I suppose propaganda is expected in the support or opposition of any ballot initiative. However, the citizens of Montana deserve to be informed with a little more respectful and honest dialogue. I offer the following for consideration, provided from my personal and professional context:

• As an environmental scientist and educator, I can tell you it is true that mines like the Berkeley Pit, the Mike Horse near Lincoln and the few Pegasus legacy mines are environmental messes costing millions each year. It’s true that thousands of smaller-scale abandoned mines will require cleanup. It is also true that none of these former mines would be possible under Montana’s existing regulations and mindsets. It is true that these big mines were under bonded or not bonded at all. The money spent on cleanup at places like Beal Mountain and Zortman-Landusky primarily comes from taxes paid by mining and petroleum — not Montana citizens. Today’s bonding is much improved and attentive to changes in standards and cleanup costs. Likewise, Montana mining has proactively added new regulations to further insure environmental responsibility.

• As an environmental consultant for government and industry, I can tell you that Montana’s existing water quality laws adequately insure clean, cold water continues to flow in our stream and rivers. These laws strictly govern the levels of every contaminant from arsenic and copper to sediment and nitrogen. These laws apply to mines and they also apply to agriculture, refineries and even to our cities, which operate landfills and water treatment plants. None of the mines currently operating in Montana are polluting our waters. Nobody has a “free rein to pollute.” No reasonable person would contend otherwise.

Matt Vincent is the former Chief Executive of Butte-Silver Bow City-County and currently owns and operates an environmental consulting small business that includes mining, government and other industries as clients. A lifelong Montanan, he is a published author, an award-winning journalist and environmental educator and a distinguished alumnus of Montana Tech. (B.S. Chemistry. He has served years on the executive boards of the George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Big Hole River Foundation and worked for the Big Hole Watershed Committee. He also currently serves as a citizen appointee on the Montana Environmental Quality Council.