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Several weeks ago I testified before a House Committee in Helena in opposition to House Bill 330, sponsored by Sen. Ed Walker of Billings, that would allow a utility to petition for a waiver from the Montana Renewable Energy Standard if the price of renewable energy is at least 5 percent above the retail electricity rate.

Since coal produces 70 percent of our electricity, legislators need to consider the externalities, or the full costs, of coal. Here are some facts from "Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future" by Jeff Goodell: Coal releases 40 percent of carbon emissions in the U.S.; U.S. per capita coal consumption is three times higher than in China; since 1900 there have been 100,000 deaths from mining; in the last 20 years, air pollution has shortened the life of 500,000 Americans; and each year there are 80,000 coal-related deaths from asthma and heart attacks.

The above negative effects are being experienced in Montana, considered a "coal state."

According to the National Academy of Science coal pollutants cause $68 billion per year damage, not including climate change consequences.

In light of the above facts, ask your legislator: "Which energy really costs less, coal or pollution-free solar, wind and geothermal?" Please urge your state representative in the House to oppose SB330.

Jay Mennenga

Climate Protection Group

Red Lodge

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