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Lawsuits filed to stop projects on federal lands have become as common as down days for the Dow. Last week, we noted with interest that timber producers under siege by environmental groups were proposing that a "loser pays" approach to lawsuits might put a halt to some of the frivolous litigation and get more Americans back to work.
We know three things about transistors.
* They have already changed the world.
* Silicon technology progress is not over, and vast domains of untapped social and economic opportunity remain.
* Every single transistor consumes electricity.
How many bites of an apple should be allowed before you have to pay for the apple?
The questions seems pertinent, given the risks posed to Montana's economy and the number of jobs being undermined by an obstructionist kind of guerrilla legal warfare that has lately become all too common.
In one recent case, a couple of environmental groups filed last minute administrative appeals against a U.S. Forest Service plan to harvest timber from a section of the Helena National Forest that has been devastated by pine beetles.
Removing diseased timber from Montana forests devastated by the beetles is a necessity, and it provides much needed resources for the state's struggling timber industry. But now the Forest Service (and ultimately the taxpayers) will have to pay for yet another round of regulatory review.
And doesn't that sound a lot like the situation the federal Bureau of Land Management is facing? A couple of environmental groups recently sued BLM - again - alleging inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when oil and gas parcels at sites scattered across Montana were leased.
The groups are challenging the lease sale in 2008 and earlier this year of leases on 58,800 acres. The BLM was sued before over the 2008 leases. That lawsuit was settled last year when the BLM agreed to conduct more reviews of greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling. Those redundant environmental assessments were done, with a finding of no significant environmental impact.
And yet, here we go again.
Timber producers suggested some solutions to this unproductive regulatory merry-go-round. One is for Congress to amend the Equal Access to Justice Act by requiring a cash bond in these types of administrative appeals and lawsuits. And for those whose strategy is to sue at every turn, they suggest a loser pays system, where the loser is responsible for paying the attorneys' fees and costs of the overall prevailing party.
In other words, someone other than the taxpayer could have to pay for the apple. It's an idea worth considering.
PUBLIC LANDS FOR PUBLIC USE
— a new coalition — will work with state legislators, the congressional delegation, and county commissioners to raise awareness of the consequences of imposing additional restrictions on natural resource development activities as Montana struggles to recover economically.
Coalition members include:
—Montana Petroleum Association
—Montana Rural Education Association
—Montana Stockgrowers Association
—Montana Farm Bureau
—Montana Wool Growers Association
—Montana Coal Council
—Montana Mining Association
—Montana Wood Products Association
—Montana Contractors Association
The Montana Energy 2012 Conference, held earlier this month, wasn't without political interest. Montana Senator Max Baucus was on hand as well as Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg. Both lawmakers addressed conference-goers, encouraging home-grown energy security. Both men believe Montana plays a significant role in U.S. energy production, and encouraged responsible development of Montana's oil and gas reserves.
"The world's energy economy is a producer's market," Baucus said, emphasizing the opportunity Montana has to prosper through natural resource development.
This week opened with news that Montana's Attorney General filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to revisit their 2010 Citizens United decision and give Montana's restrictive campaign finance laws a pass. With all due respect, I think our AG is either stuck in a time warp or doesn't understand the basics of a marketplace, and especially a marketplace of influence or ideas.
Bozeman - So what's all the fuss about fracking? Its most vocal opponents charge that fracking will burn your water, pollute your air, and cause the very ground to shift beneath you. The oil and gas industry obviously disagree. So who's right?
Well, not being a scientist I have to base my opinions on information I get from trusted sources, as do most of fracking's detractors. And based on that information my conclusion is that, just like the Keystone pipeline opposition isn't about pipelines, coal dust alarmism isn't about coal dust, and mega-load obstructionism isn't about mega-loads; most of the fuss about fracking has little to do with the actual process and more to do with getting rid of fossil fuels.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103