Discovery In The Bitterroot May Bring Big Implications
"A recent discovery in the Bitterroot Mountains has thrust Montana into a 21st-century gold rush, but unlike previous iterations, this gold rush is searching for something even harder to find: Rare earth elements."
A recent discovery in the Bitterroot Mountains has thrust Montana into a 21st-century gold rush, but unlike previous iterations, this gold rush is searching for something even harder to find: Rare earth elements.
But what exactly are rare earth elements? And how will this discovery impact America, Montana and the environment? Frontier Tech & Innovation policy analyst, Chris Isaacs unpacks the implications of the discovery in his most recent column.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of rare, and extremely valuable minerals essential to the creation of many modern technologies. In short, REE’s are what make possible many of the tools and technologies we use on a daily basis.
In February, the Utah-based company US Critical Materials announced it discovered REE samples with grades exceeding any other domestic source at their Sheep Creek property, in the Bitterroot Mountains.
In his column Chris explains:
“If the deposit’s estimated value is true, it will have serious implications for America’s domestic economy, which has struggled to develop an REE source not subject to the whims of potentially hostile nations.
But it isn’t just America which could see major benefits, both Montana and the environment are positioned to be potential beneficiaries. By mining for REEs in a location with greater checks and balances, rather than a totalitarian nation with a track record of being one of the world’s biggest polluters, the environment will no doubt be better off. That’s not to mention the potential economic benefits Montana would receive from the mine and the resources it could provide in helping diversify Montana’s energy portfolio.”
Regardless of how you look at it, the Sheep Creek discovery is welcome news. Stay tuned for Chris’ next two columns as he will continue to unpack how these findings will impact America, Montana and the environment.
Charter School Legislation In Murky Water
On Wednesday, both bills aimed at establishing charter schools were voted down in the Montana Senate. HB 562 failed to pass on a 23 to 27 vote. While its competing bill, HB 549, failed to pass on a 8 to 42 vote.
Our Take: While these bills are listed as “probably dead” on the legislative website, that may not be their final fate. Legislators can vote to reconsider a bill, however it is unclear whether that will happen. But regardless of whether charter school is achieved this session or not, the fight for education freedom will keep going. Montana families deserve the same level of education freedom that parents in 45 other states are able to enjoy.
The Reform Flying Under The Radar
In Frontier President & CEO, Kendall Cotton’s latest op-ed, he discusses a big reform coming out of the 2023 Legislature that no one is talking about.
“While historic tax relief, housing reform and constitutional amendments have received a lot of attention, no one seems to be talking about one of the most important proposals before the 2023 Montana legislative session: pension reform.”
Is Everything Within Montana’s Borders?
The Legislature is fast-tracking HB 971 in response to Yellowstone County District Judge Moses’ ruling earlier this month on a natural gas power plant being constructed in Laurel. Judge Moses invalidated the plant’s air quality permit because the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) didn’t consider the environmental impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The revised bill will explicitly bar the DEQ from considering GHG emissions from its environmental review.
Our Take: We applaud the Legislature’s quick response to Judge Moses’ novel legal theory. Montana has no statutes or regulations that compel and instruct how the DEQ is supposed to assess the impact of GHGs. Yet Judge Moses insisted the DEQ must consider GHG emissions despite no regulatory framework in its MEPA review. HB 971 will close a legal loophole other activist groups could exploit to stop Montana from becoming an energy abundant state.
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