Friday, May 27, 2022

Opencut operations

by Rep. Steve Gunderson
| April 26, 2022 7:00 AM

MEIC’s Anne Hedges op-ed on the proposed Fire Pit as usual, uses misinformation, innuendos and half-truths and some important facts left out of her hatchet piece.

HB599 intent was to streamline the permitting process for rural (not near residential areas), and high and dry (no water impact) opencut operations. Fire Pit is neither.

MEIC groupies sent bulk emails only asking that legislators vote no on HB599, to leave the opencut law unchanged. Not one email suggested any credible alternative solutions; only “kill the bill.”

HB599 made no changes that would allow companies like TCI, to make poor decisions to push an opencut project into a residential area.

HB599 did not remove any of the core mission of DEQ nor DNRC to protect our environment, air and water.

HB599, nor any prior legislation, has addressed property rights. Both the local residents and TCI have property rights. Addressing the preemptive zoning issue will be a conversation that the residents of Montana will need to have across the State.

Sand and gravel is necessary to construct infrastructure in our communities. We can’t live without it. Should a gravel pit be located in the middle of a residential area? No. Should operators be able to run rampant and pollute our air and water and environment, as Ms. Hedges alludes, we are allowing this?


Why any operator would want to build a gravel pit right in the middle of a residential area is beyond me. Why would TCI propose to build a pit that will instantly produce mad neighbors that have promised litigation due to this inappropriate siting decision? Any ideas, Anne? You offered no solutions in your hatchet op-ed. Anne, you weren’t any help in the 2021 session, but maybe you could help by flooding TCI with emails telling them Fire Pit is proposed in an inappropriate place. The usual energy your followers spent to “kill the bill” last session could be put to good use.

The original 26 item deficiency letter sent to TCI will be a daunting task for them to answer and mitigate; if they can at all in the end. Many of the deficiencies were brought out by locals at the public meeting in Libby. DEQ opencut is doing their job and following the laws we put in place.

No problem, Anne, DEQ, Lincoln County Commissioners, landowners and I have been working on solutions for opencut 3.0 for next session. We don’t need your “non-help.” That should leave you more time to continue your work to kill our local mining projects and our baseload coal energy base from Colstrip.

Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby, is chair of House Natural Resources Committee.