We are members of Montana’s rural electric co-ops. We live in rural areas of Montana and feel first-hand the impacts of climate change, from decreased stream flows, earlier snowmelt, drought and increasing soil aridity to extreme heat, hail, severe wildfires and sudden flooding events. Our lands, crops, communities, lifestyles and economies are being affected.
We know that carbon pollution from power plants is a major contributor to climate change, so it makes common sense to cut those emissions. Cutting emissions will help us and people elsewhere avoid some of the most devastating impacts associated with climate change. Our rural electric co-ops should be leaders in this effort. Instead, the state association of rural electric co-ops is actively opposing efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to put even modest limits on the amount of carbon pollution being dumped into our atmosphere. Some co-ops in western Montana are even opposing solutions to expand wind energy development, even though most Montanans strongly support increased wind development in the state and wind energy has been proven to be some of the cheapest energy available.
We want our elected officials to know we are co-op members and we strenuously disagree and are disappointed that the statewide co-op association is opposing sensible carbon emission limits. We know that carbon pollution is very harmful to public health. We know carbon pollution is a major contributor to climate change. And we know that our problems in rural Montana will only get worse if we allow climate change to go unchecked. We also support renewable energy as a viable solution. Our abundant wind and solar resources will avoid the carbon pollution associated with power plants, and will help jump-start important economic investments and jobs for Montanans. Investments in renewable energy will result in lower power costs over the long-term.
Montanans want cleaner air. They have repeatedly said they want more renewable energy in Montana. They know it can help create new jobs, it’s readily available, it’s reliable and it’s affordable. They support, by a large margin, setting limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can emit.
Failing to address climate change now will have increasingly devastating consequences down the road. Economists note that the costs associated with climate change impacts will only grow. More frequent and severe problems caused by climate change will lead to property and insurance losses and expensive mitigation efforts by federal, state and local agencies, private individuals and insurance companies to prepare for, and respond to, more frequent and extreme weather events. Those public and private costs will affect us all. Rural Montanans cannot afford these costs. We must make investments now – in energy efficiency, conservation, renewable energy and carbon reductions – to avoid exorbitant costs in the future.
We encourage our congressional delegation to support efforts to address climate change: limit carbon pollution and work to increase incentives and expand renewable energy development. We encourage our rural electric co-ops to do the same.