Two excellent pieces appeared in Missoula newspapers yesterday and today, and I hope you get a chance to read both of them.

Our friend, Ari LeVaux, who almost single-handedly organized 350 Montana’s “Renewables Now!” rally in front of NorthWestern Energy’s office over in Butte last fall, has a really disarming article in The Missoula Independent this week. He’s noticing the very rapid — and unnerving — changes in Montana’s climate and how our “hardiness zones” in western Montana are now one zone warmer that they were just 15 years ago. And it’s affecting crops. He profiles Tom McCamant, an orchardist from Paradise (those three words have a nice ring), who now grows bumper crops of peaches. There are some nice quotes from Tom about trying to figure out the weird month of February and how hard he has to work to keep the blossoms on the trees in the earlier springs.

LeVaux’s article comes the same day the newly confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, rejected the 97 percent of scientists who have proven that fossil fuels are causing the warming we’re experiencing.

The second article, an op-ed in today’s Missoulian by Brad Van Wert, tells the tale of HB 504, the Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act, which went down in an eight-to-eight vote in the House Energy Committee. Van Wert sees sinister work in the back rooms of the Legislature on behalf on our monopoly utility, NorthWestern Energy:

I would have liked a harder edge to Van Wert’s conclusions. I wish he had concluded that we can do some things: 1.) acknowledge that NorthWestern Energy just published a procurement plan for $1.3 billion worth of new fossil fuel generators in Montana and 2.) push back through the Public Service Commission, the elected body that regulates NorthWestern to move Montana quickly into renewable energy.

I guess that’s our job.

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana