The second half of the 2017 legislative session began this week, and we have another opportunity to stop several bad bills from moving forward. We hope by now you’ve saved your representatives’ contact information in a place where you can easily access it, but we will keep providing you with links for who to contact and how to reach them. Sometimes it’s best to focus on a specific committee where a bill is being heard, while other times it’s best to contact your local legislators.
Currently, Montana law prohibits the possession of a pet fox in Montana. While this law is intended to protect the public from rabies and other diseases that can be transmitted from wildlife to humans, there are many reasons why foxes belong in the wild, not in cages or living rooms. House Bill 157, sponsored by Rep. Forrest Mandeville (R-Columbus), seeks to make it legal for anyone to possess a pet fox as long as it was born in captivity. But captive birth doesn’t make a wild animal domestic – domestication takes many generations of intentional breeding and selecting for certain traits. This bill also does not specify which species of fox can be allowed as pets, opening the door to a new trade in exotic fox species in Montana and placing our native fox species at risk.
This bill has a hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee today (Tuesday, March 7th) at 3:00 pm. This is our best chance at stopping this bill. Please send a message to the committee today! You can 1) contact individual committee members; 2) send a message to the entire committee here; or 3) call Senator Brian Hoven (Committee Chair) at (406)444-4800 and tell him to vote NO on House Bill 157 (the pet fox bill).
This bill calls for state assumption of certain Clean Water Act permitting currently administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Specifically, the state would take over permitting for the placement of “dredged or filled material” (soil, sand, gravel, rocks, and other materials) into rivers, streams, and wetlands, and other water bodies in Montana. There are numerous challenges to state assumption of the permitting program, and that is why only 2 states (Michigan and New Jersey) have chosen to do this.
The program is anticipated to cost the state $1.6 million annually, and we view this as a poor use of public funds with no clear benefit to Montanans or the environment. Even under state control, the federal EPA would retain strong oversight and consultation with federal agencies is required. Essentially, the state would pay $1.6 million annually to run a program the federal government currently administers for free. We think there are better uses of state funds that could improve permitting processes and protect environmental quality.
The bill has a hearing scheduled for Friday, March 10th at 3:00 pm. Please click here to send an email to the House Natural Resources Committee and encourage them to VOTE NO on Senate Bill 48 because it’s a poor use of taxpayer funds with no clear benefit to the state! Be sure to select the House Natural Resources Committee, VOTE AGAINST, and SB 48. You can also include a personal message about the importance of clean water and wetlands for our native birds and wildlife.
Senate Bill 78, by Sen. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) attacks solar energy development in Montana by mandating changes to rules that are currently set by the experts at the Public Service Commission (PSC). Determining if a new rate class should be created is a highly technical process, one where the legislature lacks expertise. These decisions should be left to the PSC. Also, determining the value of the energy provided by net metered customers is also a highly technical process where the legislature lacks expertise. Rate making should be left to the experts at the PSC.
This bill also discriminates against net metering customers by double charging them for utility infrastructure. The bill would add a new, separate fee on net metering customers aimed at covering utility infrastructure costs, but these customers already pay for this cost in the rates paid for energy purchased from the utility. Net metering customers would be paying twice for infrastructure.
This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Energy Committee on Wednesday, March 8th at 3:00 pm. Please send a message to the committee members and tell them to VOTE NO on Senate Bill 78, support solar energy and net metering in Montana, and leave net metering details to the experts at PSC.
Thanks for your support!
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If you have any questions about what’s going on in Helena, please get in touch with Amy ([email protected]audubon.org) or Dan ([email protected]) or call our office @ (406) 443-3949. We’d love to hear from you.