Legislature passes energy efficiency for schools!

Action Alert and Update:

Legislature Votes to Fund Energy Efficiency in Schools- $15 million

Sine die [sin-ay dee-ay]


- Lat. The final adjournment of a legislative session, without adjourning to a specific time or date; Adjournment without definitely fixing a day for reconvening; literally "adjournment without a day."

Dear Conservation Voter,

Major victory close to final on this final legislative day!

We're pleased to announce that both chambers of the Legislature voted to fund major energy efficiency improvements in public schools, appropriating $15 million in federal stimulus money to put Montanans to work insulating, replacing boilers and windows, and completing major overhauls on our old school buildings.

This major policy victory prevents taxpayers money from literally leaking out the windows of our schools, and reduces our contribution to global warming.

Thank you to legislators for supporting this key measure, and to Rep. Wanda Grinde and the Northern Plains Resource Council, for moving the policy forward!

HB 645, the state appropriation of federal stimulus resources, goes to the Governor's desk next.  If he signs the bill, schools can apply for the Quick Start Energy grants as soon as the ink is dry.

So, which bad bills passed?  What's left for concerned citizens to lobby?

The 61st Legislature passed three bills that rollback current environmental laws or erode pro-active renewable energy development.  Here's a quick summary, as well as status report:

  • HB 483 (Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad)- This is the bill that started from the very flawed premise that citizens impede energy development by appealing environmental permits.  The Legislature passed this bill, in a form that would have forces regular Montanans to post an unlimited bond to appeal an environmental permit.  Riddled with technical and constitutional problems, the Governor amended the bill in 37 places, and sent it back to both the House and the Senate.  The final form of the bill, as amended, is more benign, not perfect, and certainly unnecessary. 

Recommended Citizen Action:  Thank Gov. Schweitzer for his amendments, and check to see how your legislators voted on the bill.  They should hear from you, either to thank them or ask them to explain their vote.  Senate votes here, House votes here.

  • SB 257 (Sen, Jim Keane, D-Butte)- Seriously, folks, just as we're building a new energy economy in Montana and developing clean, green wind power, the Legislature passes a bill like this.  This measure makes the Renewable Energy Standard, the state's renewable energy furnace, useless by counting routine upgrades to old dams toward the standard.  We're waiting for word from the good Governor. on this one.

Recommended Citizen Action:  Ask Governor Schweitzer, a major proponent for clean renewable energy development, to veto SB 257.  Watch for your legislators' votes on this one too, and talk to them about it.  Senate votes here, House votes here.

  • HB 575 (Rep. Bill McChesney, D-Miles City)- This one turns 140 years of carefully debated and balanced water law on its head.  You may remember from western history a little something about Prior Appropriations....?  First in time, first in right?  Montana farmers and ranchers applied for the right to use groundwater to irrigate their place in some cases four generations ago.  Now, the coal bed methane companies want to cut in line, jeopardizing these dry land farmers and cattle operations.  We think its, well, out of line, but the Legislature passed the bill.

Recommended Citizen Action:  Ask Gov. Schweitzer to veto this one too.  He stood up for clean water and Montana ranchers in 2007, when he vetoed a bad bill of similar ilk from Senator Keith Bales.  With your help, he might do it again.  Senate votes here, House votes here.

If you don't already have him on speed dial, contact the Governor's office by dialing 406.444.3111.  Email him here.

Stay tuned for Montana Conservation Voters Legislative Scorecard, coming out in soon.  Attend an MCV Legislative Town Hall Meeting in your area to talk to your legislators.

Thanks for your work, your attention, and your thoughtful replies this session.

Sarah Cobler, Program Director and Lobbyist

Montana Conservation Voters


PS- Love these action alerts?  Hate ‘em?  Give me feedback so we can make our action alerts powerful tools of citizen action.  Email me at sarah@mtvoters.org.

A message from Theresa Keaveny, MCV Executive Director -

Thank you, Sarah, and Kevin Olp (MCV's great legislative assistant) for keeping us up-to-date on conservation and environmental legislation, week in and week out.  You both did a great job!  Kudos to Eric Halstvedt for his work getting these weekly alerts out to folks.