Fossil fuel development and the toxic burning of hazardous waste are just a few factors contributing to the degradation of Montana’s air quality and climate. With the ultimate goal of air that is clean and safe to breathe and a stable climate, MEIC works with citizen groups, supports legislation, and acts as an agency watchdog to ensure that regulations are complied with and enforced.
The impacts of irresponsible hardrock and cyanide mining in Montana will affect our great state for decades to come. Abandoned and inactive mines litter the state, leaving behind scarred landscapes and contaminated water. MEIC is a respected leader in mining reform and the architect of Montana’s cyanide heap leach mining ban.
MEIC has been at the forefront of hardrock mining reform in Montana, working with government agencies, the legislature, and citizens groups to assure that our water stays clean and mining disturbance is fully reclaimed.
MIEC fights for clean water by protecting Montana from cyanide-leach gold mining, publicizing the need to give abandoned and inactive mines a higher priority, fighting to prohibit mining in sensitive ecosystems and high-risk ore bodies, and requiring that all mines be fully reclaimed – particularly the Golden Sunlight, Zortman/Landusky, and Kendall mines.
MEIC works with government agencies to ensure complete reclamation of all mine sites and require adequate bonding so that mining companies bear the full burden of mine reclamation.
MEIC is defending Montana from irresponsible mining proposals by:
Protecting Our Smith River
Montana’s Smith River is renowned worldwide for its clean water, rugged canyon scenery, and blue ribbon trout fishery. The Smith is Montana’s only permitted recreational river. The permitted section of the Smith River winds 59 miles through a remote canyon in the Big Belt Mountains. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks classifies the Smith River’s fishery as high-value, owing to its bountiful population of rainbow, brown, westslope cutthroat, and brook trout. The canyon walls of the Smith also boast some of the best examples of Native American pictographs in Montana.
Australian mining firm Sandfire Resources has submitted an application to the state of Montana to build a massive copper mine at the headwaters of the Smith River, on the banks and underneath Sheep Creek. The mine would drop below the water table, and Tintina would have to pump water out of the mine to keep it from flooding. The pumped wastewater would contain arsenic and other toxics. Sandfire’s proposed copper mine is particularly concerning because it will mine through sulfide minerals, which when exposed to air and water can react to form sulfuric acid in a process known as acid mine drainage. Sandfire is also planning a major expansion beyond their original permit application, and has purchased several mineral leases and claimed several forest service tracts. Montana has a long legacy of mining projects that have contaminated our rivers and streams. The Smith River is not a location for another failed mining experiment. Learn more at www.saveoursmith.com
Protecting the Cabinet Mountains
Two long-proposed mines threaten the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, on of the original wilderness areas created by the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. The projects are owned by Hecla Mining of Idaho.
MEIC has been involved in the effort since the 1980s to prevent these mines from being built. Montanore threatens the water quality of Libby Creek and the Kootenai River, the small grizzly bear population in the Cabinet/Yaak ecosystem, and Canadian lynx habitat.
The Montanore Mine is an underground copper and silver project proposed under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness from the east side of the range. The better known Rock Creek Project is proposed on the west side. It would have the same impacts, albeit to the Bull and the Clark Fork Rivers.
Clean and healthful. It's your right, our mission.
Often referred to as Montana’s “environmental watchdog,” MEIC successfully changes public policy and defends Montana’s Constitution by exerting the influence of our members and staff on State government and in the courts. We increase the public’s understanding of and involvement in environmental problems and issues. The constitution of Montana and MEPA are very significant for environmental protection in Montana.
MEIC has been instrumental in the design, passage, and implementation of many of Montana’s landmark environmental laws, including the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The Act has been severely undermined by amendments adopted by the past several legislatures, and MEIC is working to restore the foundations of MEPA – providing State agencies with the ability to require environmentally protective mitigation. MEIC continually monitors and influences State agency compliance with MEPA.
Montana’s landmark Constitution, ratified in 1972, provides MEIC with our overall mission – maintaining a clean and healthful environment for all Montanans. The right to a clean and healthful environment has been recognized as a fundamental right – in a case that MEIC successfully brought to the Montana Supreme Court, MEIC v. DEQ. We work to assure that the Montana Constitution is adequately and properly enforced to protect that right.
Fossil fuel development, forest fires, wood smoke, and the burning of toxic or hazardous substances are just some of the factors contributing to the degradation of Montana’s air quality and climate. With the ultimate goal of air that is clean and safe to breathe and a stable climate, MEIC works with citizen groups, supports legislation, and acts as an agency watchdog to ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected from harmful air pollution.
The quality of the air in Montana depends on many things including laws that limit air pollution, the enforcement of those laws, and public knowledge of whether the air is healthy on any given day. MEIC works to protect existing air quality laws, improve public access to health-based information, and guarantee that our laws are enforced, even if that means going to court to enforce clean air protections.
Air Pollution from Power Plants and Other Industrial Pollution Sources
Power plants are the largest individual sources of air pollution, including climate changing pollution, in Montana and across the United States. Currently there are no uniform national limits on the amount of climate changing pollution that power plants are allowed to emit. The Colstrip coal-fired power plant is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution in the nation.
When coal is burned, harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates are released into the air. These pollutants cause and aggravate respiratory diseases, damage lung tissue, lead to premature death, harm vegetation, crops, and water quality. MEIC works to limit emissions from Montana’s coal-fired power plants.
Haze and Wood Smoke
Public health is jeopardized by fine particulates that lodge deep in the lungs. In Montana, fine particulates are created by forest fires, which have become increasingly worse due to climate change. In recent years Montanans have experienced mega-fires that have shut down schools, sent Montanans to the emergency room, and dealt a serious blow to the state’s economy. Fine particulates are also the result of smoke from inefficient wood stoves operating during winter inversions in Montana’s mountain valleys. MEIC works to limit fine particulate pollution from all sources and to make sure people have the resources they need to make informed decisions about air quality and their health.