First off, the good news: thanks to your calls and emails, the Clark Fork Coalition made gains for clean water at the 2011 Legislature. The Coalition worked with sponsor Senator Ron Erickson to pass the “Septic Disclosure Act” by a vote of 39-11 from the Senate last week. This bill, Senate Bill 191, would protect property buyers by ensuring they are provided with basic information about their septic system.
We feel this bill is a win-win for buyers, sellers, and water quality in the Clark Fork watershed. Over one-third of Montanans use an on-site sewage treatment system in their homes. A properly designed, constructed, and maintained septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. But a poorly maintained septic system degrades water quality in ground water, streams, and rivers—and can contaminate drinking water, especially if located near wells.
This bill aims to keep septics up to snuff by letting property owners know that they require regular maintenance and repair. It requires that a seller provide a disclosure statement, as well as any available county permits or maintenance records for the system. If all parties understand potential septic problems and/or costs up-front, then both buyers and sellers are better able to save resources, time, and even potential lawsuits down the road. Next up for SB 191: a hearing in the House.
Meanwhile, on to defense—we have a tough road ahead of us this week. The House and Senate are both voting on a host of bills that could potentially do permanent harm to the health of the Clark Fork basin. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we’re working on. YOU CAN HELP BY EMAILING YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY AND TELLING THEM YOU OPPOSE THE FOLLOWING BILLS.
Senate Bill 306: Cyanide Heap Leach Mining Expansion: OPPOSE
Yes, Montanans have voted not once, but TWICE to ban cyanide heap leach mining—but it’s back. This bill would allow existing facilities to expand their cyanide processing for ore and tailings from new open-pit mines. It will encourage all sorts of open-pit mines, big and small, that will scar our mountains and floodplains—particularly at risk are the Blackfoot and Rock Creek watersheds. Plus, using more cyanide to process ore goes against the voters’ choice…and threatens water quality in Montana. The cyanide bill hits the Senate floor this week for a full vote. Email your senator TODAY and tell him/her you OPPOSE SB 306.
HOUSE BILL 433: Bad for Rivers. Bad for Water Rights: OPPOSE
GOOD NEWS! HB 433 just failed 32-67, which means MT Representatives voted on behalf of protecting water rights and rivers.
Exempt wells have been in the news lately, and the debate continues. This bill sanctions a “free giveaway” of our precious water resources. It’s a blatant attempt to overturn a recent win, in which the Coalition and several Montana ranchers succeeded in compelling the state to re-write the problematic “exempt well rule.” This rule allows developers to drill dozens or even hundreds of wells for a subdivision without a permit, leaving Montanans unable to manage our water resources. Exempt wells are bad for rivers, bad for water right holders, and bad for Montana. This bill would not only codify a bad rule, it would expand the permit exemption. This bill will be in front of the full House this week. Email your representative TODAY and tell him/her you OPPOSE HB 433.
Senate Bill 317: Undermines Basic Environmental Protections: OPPOSE
This bill puts Montanans in the backseat for important future decisions. It drastically weakens the Montana Environmental Policy Act, a tool that helps Montanans keep our state clean and beautiful. SB 317 changes the fundamental purpose, policy, requirements, and enforcement of our important law, and even limits state agencies from reviewing new studies or information related to impacts from a major project. This bill will also be on the Senate floor this week. Email your Senator TODAY and tell him/her you OPPOSE SB 317.
Senate Bill 312: Paves the Way for Corporate Mining Interests: OPPOSE
This bill will lead to faster permitting with less environmental review for new metal mines, as well as less review for existing mines looking to change their operating or reclamation plans. It also hands corporate interests “veto power” over Montanans, because the Dept. of Environmental Quality would have to essentially ask the company’s permission before taking any precautions that safeguard clean water and communities. With a long and expensive track record for irresponsible mining in the Clark Fork, we can’t afford this bill. Email your Senator and tell him/her you OPPOSE SB 312.
Thank you for using your voice on behalf of clean water—we need you to help protect the remarkable ecological and community investment we’ve made in the Clark Fork basin over the past several decades. We can’t do this work without you.