Power plant developer seeks allies against MEIC suit

Developers for a proposed power plant near Roundup are urging other business owners
to get involved in an ongoing lawsuit over a different power plant slated for Butte, arguing that the
environmentalists fighting it aim to end all business development in Montana.

Gazette State Bureau

Jim Jensen, executive director for the Montana Environmental Information Center, which filed the suit,
called that allegation untrue. He said his organization is only against excessively polluting industries that are
not interested in cleaning up their acts.

Steve Wade, a Helena lawyer for Bull Mountain Development Company of New York, wrote a memo this
week outlining what he said could happen if Jensen’s group wins its case. A victory for Jensen could make it
impossible for any new polluting industries to operate in the state, the memo argued. It ended with an appeal
for fellow industries to "challenge MEIC’s tactics," by intervening in the suit, either as individuals or in a big

The memo refers to a suit MEIC filed this summer against the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The suit alleges the agency violated the constitutional right of Montanans to a "clean and healthful environment,"
by giving Continental Energy permission to release tons of greenhouse gasses into the air at its proposed
Silver Bow Generation plant.

The company wants to build a 500-megawatt, natural gas-fired power plant near
Butte and got an air discharge permit from the state to do so. The plant has not been built.

The group’s suit has drawn fire from both the energy company and Butte-Silver Bow officials, who
welcomed the jobs the plant promised to bring.
Jensen said the suit was justified because the plant will release up to 3 million tons of carbon dioxide
every year, exacerbating global warming and dirtying the local air.
"The Montana Constitution requires the state to analyze and make a determination of whether something
that will cause this kind of harm is in the best interest of Montanans," Jensen said.
But Ward argued that the state has already done that. It is the Legislature’s job to implement the
constitution, and by giving the Department of Environmental Quality power to regulate pollution in the state,
lawmakers have already made a decision about how much pollution is acceptable and why. The group’s suit
attempts to take that power away from the Legislature, Ward argued, and hand it to the courts, essentially
nullifying all the state’s environmental rules and making judges and juries decide pollution releases on a
case-by-case basis.
"It’s a big issue and the outcome is important," Wade said.
He said he was asked by his boss, Joe Dickey, project manager for the proposed Bull Mountain power
plant, to write the memo. Ward said he gave the memo to a few people, but "wasn’t trying to drum up anything."
"It’s intended more for people to be aware of the big issue," he said.
Dickey said he also gave the memo to a couple people.
He said the environmental group is trying to sidestep the state’s environmental rules altogether by making
the courts decide if pollution is something Montana should have at all. He thinks business owners who follow
all the state’s environmental rules ought to be able to do business here.
"You have a regulatory agency for various things," he said. "Now, you’ve got a group that says that’s not
good enough."
Jensen countered that his group isn’t against new, polluting industries, and held up two other new power
plants have been approved in the state recently, which his group worked with to make cleaner. The group
settled a similar lawsuit with NorthWestern Corp., which is building gas powered plant near Great Falls, in an
agreement cited as historic.
So far, according to district court records, no one has filed to intervene in the case.

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