Looking Back and Moving Forward

350 Montana is an all-volunteer effort and an experiment in social fusion. 

If you want to encourage our strong and growing pushback to the fossil fuel industry and its bought-and-paid-for politicians, please send a tax-deductible donation to 350 Montana/JRPC, P.O. Box 7006, Missoula, MT 59807.

You are one of more than 3,500 people who receive these email alerts. We ask your support because Montana is ground zero for fossil fuel exansions like the Keystone XL pipeline, new coal mines, Bakken oil “bomb trains,” and NorthWestern Energy’s plan for a boondoggle, another generation of fossil fuel generators.

We are the voice that says: Don’t go down that road. Wildfires burned nearly 1.5 million acres of our beautiful state last summer, including one fire that incinerated over 270,000 acres. I had three friends evacuated from their homes, one in Seeley Lake, another in Lolo, and a third up the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Last year, we had a normal winter with normal snowpack, but our fires started the second week of July, and our rivers adopted “hoot owl” restrictions soon thereafter due to low stream flows and warm temperatures. 

Climate change is here. The only way to mitigate its devastating advance on this place we love is to stop climate-pollution from fossil fuels and move as rapidly as possible to clean energy. That’s our mission. 

We succeed when ordinary Montanans step forward, move out of our comfort zone, and seize the instruments of democracy. Think about it. When have we seen another citizens’ movement so universally committed to nonviolence and profound social change? 

In many ways we Americans have been asleep or tongue-tied as the fossil fuel interests have hijacked our democracy. One of my quote from Ed Abbey, is: 

“Refuse to participate in evil; insist on taking part in what’s healthy, generous, and responsible. Stand up, speak out, and when necessary fight back. Get down off the fence and lend a hand, grab a-hold, be a citizen — not a subject.” 

As the co-chair of 350 Montana, I have seen ordinary people coming forward this past year to do extraordinary things:

●      Last January six of us testified to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and turned in 800 citizen petitions against NorthWestern Energy’s “procurement plan,” a $1.3 billion fossil fuel boondoggle. The PSC told the company to go back to the drawing board.

●      We commissioned two reports, one sketching a future vision of Montana’s clean energy potential and the second detailing NorthWestern Energy’s million-dollar lobbying effort to derail that vision. Hundreds oif people have gone to our website (www.350montana.org) to read or download the reports.

       ●      We provided support for Leonard Higgins, who turned off a tar-sands oil pipeline in central                Montana. We raised $4,000 for his defense fund, provided logitical support for his trial in Fort Benton, organized a “mock trial” at UM that drew an audience of more than 100 people in the UC Theater and hundreds more to “live streaming” on-line. A dozen of us bore witness at his trial in November and will attend his sentencing on January 2.

●      By tabling at Missoula’s farmers markets, we generated another 1,000 petitions to the PSC supporting clean energy. We helped get 1,500 signatures encouraging Governor Steve Bullock to stay in the Paris Climate Accords. In addition to gathering signatures, we are reviving a lost art, actually talking to and educating people about the most important issue in our democracy.

●      We held renewable energy forums in five Montana cities — averaging 40 participants each — to release our reports and spread the vision of a clean energy future Montana.

●      Our members attended Al Gore’s Climate Reality training in Seattle in June, Northern Plains Resource Council’s week-long organizing training in Billings in August, and 350.org’s “Keep it in the Ground” training in Pittsburgh in November.

●      And let’s not forget — because of intense grassroots citizen activism — there are no permitted coal export facilities on the West Coast. There is no Keystone XL pipeline. The Otter Creek Coal Mine and the Tongue River Railroad are abandoned. Oil and coal trains are declining on Montana’s rails. Two of the four coal-fired powerplants at Colstrip will be decommisioned between now and 2027. The other two are likely to shut down before 2030. And so far, the Great Transition has generated $14.5 million for re-training Colstrip’s displaced workers.

That’s a lot of momentum we’ll continue into next year, continuing our opposition to all coal mines, bomb trains, oil pipelines, and NorthWestern Energy’s desire for another generation of climate-polluting fossil fuel plants. We’re also considering a voter initiative to bring the kind of climate-savvy future Montanans deserve.

We guarantee that every penny you contribute will be used for boldly courageous grassroots climate education and activism.

We hope you continue as part of the climate movement.

 

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana