I-186 means a vote for clean water in Montana

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Currently, Montana tax payers are picking up the bill to cleanup abandoned mine sites leaking lead, arsenic, and mercury into our rivers and drinking water. We pay tens-of-millions every year to deal with the damage left by foreign and out-of-state companies and we currently have no law that allows the state to say “no” to new mines that would continue polluting and wasting taxpayer dollars.

That’s why Montana Trout Unlimited is leading the effort to pass I-186, a common sense idea based on successful laws in other western states. With I-186, we Montanans can end this cycle of irresponsible mining by stopping new mines that will create perpetual pollution, contaminating our water with arsenic, mercury, and lead.

I-186 is a Montana-made initiative that will require that mining companies submitting new hard-rock mine permit applications prove that their mine will not result in perpetual pollution of Montana waters. If a mining company cannot prove that their proposed mine will not perpetually pollute our state’s waters, the state Department of Environmental Quality will be required to deny the company’s hard-rock mine permit application. I-186 applies only to new hard-rock mine permit applications. I-186 does not apply to currently permitted hard-rock mines or expansion applications for currently permitted hard-rock mines. Hard-rock mining jobs in Montana are not at risk from I-186.

We hear from the mining industry that mining jobs are “good jobs.” This small vocal group of opponents of I-186 continue to attempt to mislead and scare Montanans with the false claim that the initiative will harm the state’s current mining economy or its potential to grow responsibly. I-186 will do neither. Additionally, a good outdoor recreation job is no less a job than a good hard-rock mining job and vice versa. Here’s a more accurate picture of the economic impact from both:

On jobs, the outdoor industry far outpaces the mining industry:

• 1,896 metal mining jobs in Montana (Source: Montana Department of Labor)

• 71,000 outdoor recreation and tourism jobs (Source: Outdoor Industry Association)

The same holds true in revenues:

• $25 million in tax revenues from metal (hard-rock) mining (Source: Montana Department of Revenue, Biennial Report, July 1, 2014-June 30, 2016)

• $7 billion per year in consumer spending and $286 million in state and local tax revenues from outdoor recreation and tourism (Source: Outdoor Industry Association)

While these are big differences, the two industries can co-exist and find success in Montana.

I-186 is about clean water and over 45,000 Montanans signed petitions to put I-186 on this November’s ballot.

I hope we can count on you to vote YES on I-186 this fall in support of protecting our clean water and Montana taxpayers.

Chris Schustrom is Chair of Montana Trout Unlimited and is the fourth generation of his family to live and work in Montana.

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