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U.S. Sen. Jon Tester listens to Randy Hafer
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., listens to Randy Hafer, foreground right, as he meets with members of the Montana Small Business Alliance on Wednesday.

Softening federal clean air and water laws would be a blow to the local economy, several green businesses told Sen. Jon Tester on Wednesday.

Meeting with the Democratic senator at the Montana Small Business Alliance office in Billings, entrepreneurs told Tester that their businesses would be destroyed if federal environmental regulations were eased.

Brandon and Kolbi Fox of Yellowstone E Waste, said current regulations and incentives aimed at keeping lead mercury and other hazardous materials out of landfills are the foundation of their electronic recycling business. Every recycled computer monitor keeps 5 to 8 pounds of lead out of the local landfill, Brandon Fox said.

Randy Hafer of High Plains Architects said air quality is crucial to his business, which is developing buildings that recycle rainwater. Hafer's designs turn rain into a drinking source with minimal filtration, but only if the water is pure falling out of the sky. He said Billings' air has greatly improved over the past 30 years, making plans like his possible.

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Business people who met with Tester were concerned that a current push in the House to soften regulations in the name of eliminating red tape for refineries and other polluters would be bad for Billings.

Tester agreed that clean air and water had to be protected as the nation moved forward with environmental and energy legislation.

"We need to put all of the pieces on the table and make sure we don't damage our water our air because that ain't right," Tester said.

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Contact Tom Lutey at

tlutey@billingsgazette.com or 657-1288

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