We all deserve clean water. It’s not a privilege. It’s not something we should have to argue about, or beg for, or be bullied out of by big industry. It’s a right. In America, clean water is and should be a right, plain and simple.
But here in Montana, that comes with a hefty price tag for taxpayers.
Historically, mining has been big business out here, and like most places, big business called a lot of the shots over the decades when it came to decisions made at a local and state level.
But deciding whether or not we have clean water should not be in their power. History has shown us that their decision making in that department is flawed at best.
Time and time again, Montanans have watched as companies (often foreign companies) came in, made big profits then bailed, leaving a massive mess of acid mine drainage and metals like lead, mercury and arsenic draining into our streams and rivers. Often the legacy of that pollution lasts for decades if not forever.
These messes are then left to the state and taxpayers to clean up to the tune of millions of dollars each year.
Yesterday a coalition of conservation groups launched a ballot initiative to let the taxpayers decide whether or not they would continue to let the mining industry call the shots on their water.
The Yes on I-186 initiative requires the mining industry to show solid proof that when their company packs up and leaves, they leave their area clean. No perpetual pollution. No bills for taxpayers. Clean water for Montanans, pure and simple.
The initiative says if you’re going to mine here, you need to respect our state, it’s citizens and its resources.
This is not a new concept. Many companies are already doing this, even in Montana. It doesn’t cost jobs and it doesn’t shut down future mines. It simply asks that companies follow the same rules you would ask your children to follow: Respect our home, clean up your mess.
This is the state of independent thinkers, who look past the labels and headlines and who take pride in making political pundits scratch their heads in confusion. We make decisions based on our values, and we live here because we value things like clean water.
So why are we still letting the mining industry call the shots then leave us with the bill?
Shauna Stephenson is the national communications director at Trout Unlimited and lives in Pony, Montana.