Don’t Sign The Petition

Don’t Sign The Petition

Election Deniers are gathering petition signatures to repeal the resolution which removed Sandra Merchant from election administration.  Pictured here is a sign at the local Republican Central Committee office on 10th Avenue South. Before getting to the petition effort of the election denier conspiracists, let’s remind ourselves that Sandra Merchant was failing at her responsibilities administering elections here in Cascade County.  The County Commission made its decision to remove those duties from Merchant based on poor job performance. . .nothing more.  For a detailed account follow this link    Despite the facts, the local election conspiracy crowd, primarily housed in the Republican Pachyderm Club, argued that the decision was a power grab by Commissioners Larson and Briggs.  They have ranted and raved, pointed fingers and shaken their fists.  Now they are circulating a petition to repeal the county ordinance which removed election duties from Sandra Merchant. In order to place their repeal effort on the ballot the sponsors have 90 days from the date the resolution was effective. That date is December 12, 2023.  So they will have to turn in their signatures somewhere around March 10th.  They must have signatures from 15% of qualified electors in the county. That’s about 5,500 signatures, but that is the number of valid signatures required. They will need to gather many more than the minimum number to make up for invalid signatures that come into the process.  The law also requires “The form of the petition must be approved by the county election administrator.” Does that mean Devereaux Biddick, who is the acting election administrator appointed by the County Commissioners on a temporary basis, reviewed and approved the form of the petition?  Biddick is an election denier and close political ally of Sandra Merchant. In fact she was hired by Sandra Merchant to work in the elections office shortly after Merchant took office in January 2023.  We wonder if her direct supervisors, Commissioner Joe Briggs and Commission Chair Jim Larson had any idea she was working on approving this petition.

ETA: An earlier version of this post indicated the petitioners has 60 days to gather signature. This has been corrected. The petitioners have 90 days to gather signatures.

Guest Opinion: Oppose Montana Renewable’s Wastewater Permit

Guest Opinion: Oppose Montana Renewable’s Wastewater Permit

Why I Oppose Montana Renewable’s EPA Wastewater Permit

By Lisa Schmidt For WTF406

I raise cattle and sheep on my ranch that, fortunately, has 16 natural springs. Those springs are vital to my livelihood so I protect them fiercely. Contamination of the groundwater would cause irreparable harm to my natural resources and livelihood. Montana Renewables, a subsidiary of Calumet, produces biodiesel in Great Falls. The most efficient method to dispose of the wastewater is to treat it at the refinery. No-brainer.

Instead, the company currently trucks the wastewater 85 miles to load it on railcars and haul it to out-of-state waste sites. This is a temporary disposal plan. Montana Renewables has contracted with Montalban Oil and Gas Operations, hoping to inject that wastewater into two abandoned oil wells at the end of a gravel road 91 miles from the refinery and about five miles as the crow flies from my springs. These wells are within a half mile of Dupuyer Creek, which flows into Lake Francis. Lake Francis is the source for drinking water in Conrad, Valier and Brady, along with irrigation water for 77,000 acres of cropland.

To inject wastewater, owner Patrick Montalban needs a Class V permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m concerned about this plan for three important reasons.
First, Montalban’s permit application describes the injectate materials as “including, but not limited to” vegetable oils and animal fat, among others. In other words, anything could go down those wells. Montana Renewables has never provided comprehensive test results of the wastewater to the Pondera County commissioners, Great Falls water treatment managers or the public, despite repeated requests.

A basic test of potential wastewater reveals that it is contaminated with trace amounts of arsenic, barium and lead, among other things, along with sky-high levels of salts and phosphorus. Water treatment managers normally treat water that contains 3 to 5 parts per million of phosphorus. Montana Renewables wastewater contains 250 ppm. Water treatment managers estimate rates would have to increase by $3 million to $4 million each year if they had to pull that much phosphorus from the water they treat.

Second, the permit application states that 171 times more material will be injected under pressure into the ground than was originally removed. Two containment layers of rock are supposed to maintain separation between the injectate and groundwater. Those layers are limestone and shale. Limestone is known to crack under pressure and shale is only semi-permeable, not impermeable, under pressure.

The permit application requires monitoring with the quarter-mile Area of Review. But Montalban and Montana Renewables corporate officer Bruce Fleming note that the Madison sandstone layer where they want to inject materials runs from Canada to North Dakota, so they have lots of space to fill with contaminated wastewater. But the Madison layer is also a source of groundwater past the quarter-mile, monitored Area of Review. Either the injectate remains within a quarter mile of the wells and builds incredible pressure or it is allowed to flow beyond the Area of Review and potentially contaminate groundwater.

Third, Fleming says people can drink this wastewater. This declaration that people can drink wastewater that contains more than 50 times the amount of phosphorus is only true because the federal government doesn’t have a drinking water standard for phosphorus, yet water treatment plants are required to remove it. Excessive phosphorus can cause diarrhea and hardening of organs and arteries. Fleming is not quite lying, but he certainly is not answering questions in the public’s best interests or being transparent about the process. One has to wonder why.
Montana Renewables has developed an exciting new process to produce biodiesel. They have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the entire world how to handle wastewater the right way. They should embrace that opportunity.

The deadline for comments to the EPA is February 15.
Learn more at

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

Legislative Auditors have once again examined the Public Service Commission and, once again, they don’t like what they see.  Specifically, the audit found that only 23% of employees at the PSC  believed that commissioners behaved with high ethical standards.  The auditors found that the shenanigans of various commissioners and consistent promotion of fossil fuels over the last few years have undermined public trust in PSC decision making.  Here’s a brief recap of some of the actions of commissioners which led to another bad audit report.

  • Commissioner Randy Pinocci was arrested for witness tampering in a private matter.  He is currently awaiting trial.
  • Commissioners Randy Pinocci and Tony O’Donnell issued a press release saying that there was a frighteningly real possibility of black outs in eastern Montana and called on the legislature to save the coal plants in southeastern Montana.  Montana Dakota Utilities said the release was “completely unfounded.”
  • Commissioner Jennifer Fielder threatened medical providers in Helena with “political consequences” for refusing to administer a nonclinical remedy for COVID-19.  
  • Commissioner Randy Pinocci publicly suggested that the City of Missoula be targeted for black outs because he said they do not support coal development.
  • Commissioners routinely advocate for coal power even though they are responsible to objectively examine various resources and mechanisms for meeting power needs.  

Commission Chairman, James Brown (who just announced he is running for State Auditor ) objected to much of the audit report saying that some steps have been taken to address some of the issues.  But clearly many issues remain unresolved.

Millionaire Sheehy’s Shady Editorial

Millionaire Sheehy’s Shady Editorial

Responding to Tim Sheehy’s Editorial Rhetoric

U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Sheehy has a semi-autobiographical  editorial circulating around the state. Like most puff pieces from politicians, it begins by saying, “I never thought of getting into politics until . . .fill in the blank here.” In Sheehy’s case it’s Afghanistan.  It also gives him a chance to highlight his military service while condemning President Biden.  

He must have forgotten that Donald Trump had reduced U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 13,100. In November 2020, he ordered that all troops would be evacuated by January 2021.  Typical of Trump, he changed his mind and ordered withdrawal of more troops, instead leaving a total U.S. military force of 2,500 facing the Taliban in the strongest military position it had been in since 2001. The truth is U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan was plagued with problems for the 20 years we were there, just like the Russians before us.  Pinning it on Joe Biden ignores facts and history.  But hey, this is politics.

But back to Sheehy’s editorial.  He then goes on to frame his decision to run for Senate in a “call to duty” format with a dollop of family values and business experience. You may have noticed that we didn’t say “private sector” experience.  That’s because earnings from his company, Bridger Aerospace, which generates about $5 million  a year for Sheehy, is mostly working on government contracts fighting forest fires.   He also owns luxury houses in Big Sky, Polson, and Bozeman, in addition to  a share of a large ranch outside Martinsdale.

And like most rich people, he has lots of investments.  He says his net worth is between $74 and $200 million.  (A complaint has been filed against Sheehy for the lack of specific information in his disclosure forms by a group called End Citizens United.)  While he is condemning China, he’s investing in Chinese companies.  While attacking environmental investment strategies, he is investing in “sustainable” software products to manage carbon emissions. He even removed the words “fighting on the front lines of climate change” from the Bridger Aerospace website after announcing he was running for Senate.

Like most rich people, Sheehy had considerable advantages provided by his family. He grew up in a multi-million dollar lake house in Shoreview, Minnesota, a wealthy suburb of St. Paul. He attended a private high school before being accepted to the Naval Academy. It’s hard to say when he became a resident of Montana.  In 2016 Sheehy reported the Shoreview house as his residence in campaign reports of his donations to Greg Gianforte.  

But probably the most disturbing thing about Sheehy’s editorial is his parroting of Trump’s dark conspiratorial view of America.  He writes. “. . .the alternative is to leave these Marxists who weaponize cancerous ideologies like DEI and ESG and don’t represent our values in control—and to me, that’s unacceptable.”  Most of us have no idea what DEI and ESG means (DEI- Diversity Equity and Inclusion/ ESG- Environmental, Social, Governance).  His demonization and use of the term Marxist to describe his political opponents is straight out of Senator Joe McCarthy’s playbook.  Ironically, this kind of red-baiting is fundamentally anti-American.

Oops! Endorsement Uh-Oh

Oops! Endorsement Uh-Oh


Republican candidate for Superintendent of Schools, Susie Hedalen, recently published this endorsement ad on Facebook.  Aside from using a photo of an anti-public education  Governor, can you spot what’s wrong with this picture?

Remember, dear Susie is hoping we’ll elect her to run our public schools. Does this “endorsement annoucment” fill you with confidence in Susie’s skills?