Letter: Air pollution takes toll in Billings – Billings Gazette, April 3, 2016

April 4, 2016

Categories: Clean Energy, Coal

A recent letter by a Musselshell County commissioner made me ponder her view of Montana’s coal industry.

By the time I was 10, I could hatchet apple boxes into kindling and build a fire using coal in the pot-bellied stove that heated the mom-and-pop grocery store in Billings where I grew up. At 84, I can still recall the pleasure that warmth created. Then came natural gas and electricity for generating warmth. Progress, but at a cost.

For me, the cost included living under the umbrella of air pollution from two oil refineries and also a coal-fired electric generating plant within a mile of our store, our home. My cost continues: a case of asthma that is triggered by air pollution (SO2, etc.). The cost to my friend Nettie Lees was death. She died in 1986 of an asthma attack triggered by a refinery plume at ground level due to an air inversion in Billings.

I am not one of those environmental extremists you mentioned in your letter. I, along with other members of Northern Plains Resource Council, have been fighting for state and federal air quality standards since 1979. Finally, Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Now, we can take advantage of 21st century opportunities! The worldwide coal market is dying as new technologies — wind, solar, energy efficiencies — emerge. Allow yourself an open mind and you can learn about various new energy strategies on the horizon that will replace coal as a major energy source. With luck, I will live to see them come to pass.

Musselshell County, think forward — not backward. Good luck!

Eileen Morris



220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154