Perhaps Iím old fashioned, but I was always taught that you donít fix what isnít broken. And when it comes to Montanaís mining regulations and the environmental protections we have in place, they are far from needing fixed.
Even a cursory look at Montanaís permitting process for mines reveals that our regulatory standards are among the worldís most stringent when it comes to protecting our land and water resources. But I-186, a recently proposed ballot initiative, completely ignores the modernization of Montanaís mining laws and the rigorous regulatory process that members of our mining industry must go through today to obtain a permit.
Through vague language and legal ambiguity, I-186 attempts to mislead Montana voters into believing that our mining industry needs more regulation ó but that couldnít be further from the truth.
In just the last 30 years nearly 40 new state and federal regulations have been enacted to ensure that companies requesting mining permits have reclamation plans in place and sufficient funds set aside to execute their remediation efforts. The amount of the bond that a company is required to post is determined by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and can be increased at any time if they believe the cost of reclamation has increased during the life of the project. These bond amounts are paid wholly by the mining company in order to ensure Montana taxpayers are never left with the bill for restoring our landscape.
If I-186 passes, it would add ambiguity to state law resulting in additional lawsuits that would effectively prohibit future mines from being permitted. Furthermore, existing mines would face uncertainty regarding mine amendments and expansions. Existing tax revenues could suffer reductions that impact state and local governments. Montanaís state budget as well as many local governments face shortfalls today that have resulted in many cuts to services our citizens need. Why would you want to increase those budget shortfalls and put current jobs at risk?
Montana mining contributes nearly $42 million dollars in annual tax revenue, which used to support our teachers, law enforcement officers, schools and other critical community services. Montana mining has generated approximately $1.83 billion in gross economic output ($1.196 billion direct plus $642 million indirect and induced) in our state. All of which would be negatively impacted by the passage of I-186. And that is exactly what the proponents of this ballot initiative want.
The real intent behind I-186 is to shut down miningóplain and simple. Out-of-state donors and the activists they bankroll who are behind this initiative arenít concerned with the future of our state and they couldnít care less about preserving the balance we have achieved between agriculture, industry, and protecting our environment. They want to push their extremist agenda on Montana, no matter the cost.
As we launch our campaign effort, we will not only be fighting to Stop I-186, we will be fighting to protect the livelihoods of miners, teachers, engineers, equipment operators and small business owners across our state, because we value people more than politics.
We hope you will join us in our efforts to stop I-186. To find out more, visit www.stopi186.com.
Dave Galt is the executive director of STOP I-186 to Protect Miners and Jobs.