Climate change will be a big topic when conservation groups meet today with Montana lawmakers in the Old Supreme Court Room at the State Capitol.

HELENA, Mont. – Groups are rallying in Helena today to push for action on climate change, wildlife, public lands and more.

Two bills in their sights are designed to lay the groundwork for a clean-energy future. Senate Bill 189 would establish a carbon tax and use the money for property-tax relief. State Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, who introduced the bill, said it would limit nearly every Montanans’ property tax bill to 2.25 percent of their income.

Barrett said the bill is more limited in scope than other carbon-tax proposals in the region but could play a big part in the climate-change fight.

“The idea is that this will push us in the direction of lowering carbon emissions,” he said, “and, therefore, lowering the climate impact.”

SB 189 would charge $10 per ton of carbon emitted by large electricity generators, but also offer those companies ways to offset their carbon emissions.

Montana Conservation Voters hosts the event today, starting at 9:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and moving to the Old Supreme Court Room in the Capitol to meet with lawmakers at noon. Other groups attending include Environment Montana, Forward Montana and the Montana Environmental Information Center.

The same groups also are watching SB 190, which sets emission-reduction goals. Under the bill, emission levels would drop to 25 percent below 2010 levels by 2022, with the ultimate goal of zero emissions by 2050. Sen. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, its prime sponsor, said the state needs to envision a whole new clean-energy paradigm.

“You can slice and dice this any way you want, but that is the essential future,” he said. “The question is how quickly does Montana embrace that future and move toward it on purpose? Whether we move on purpose or we get dragged along, that future is coming and I don’t think that it can be denied.”

The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee will hold hearings for both SB 189 and SB 190 on Thursday.

The text of SB 189 is online here, and SB 190’s text is here.

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