Anyone else see this letter to the editor in the Tribune today:

Coal plant needed
My name is Jeff Legg. My wife and I are both Great Falls natives. I am a plumber/pipe fit­ter and a member of UA Local 41. Being a union plumber, I have had to travel to other areas to work because union work in Great Falls is almost nonexistent. I have spent years leaving my family on Sundays and coming home Fridays, missing out on much of my family life. When I first heard about the Highwood project, I almost felt reborn, thinking of all the great things this project could provide my family and me. The morning the big record of decision came out in the Tribune reporting that the funding was still up in the air and the county zoning rescinded; I gave up hope and moved my family to Belgrade where I am working now.

My family and I would love to come home to Great Falls. With­out the opportunities offered by the Highwood Generating Sta­tion, it will be tough. Great Falls needs the Highwood Generating Station. We need to do whatever we can to assure this project does not turn into another “ethanol plant.” The environmen­tal lobby has continually demon­strated that compromise has never been a part of their agen­da. We need to succeed in spite of all the environmentalists like the Cheryl Reicherts and Stuart Lewins. (No offense). This is not only a fight for a good idea and something Great Falls truly needs; it is a fight for common sense.
— Jeff Legg, Belgrade

I am wondering whether anyone thought his approach is persuasive. In other words, "My name is Gee Guy, and we should build a coal plant because it would be a good thing for me." I don't fault the guy for wanting work to support his family, and he sounds like an earnest and hardworking gent.

But I don't think the personal approach is very persuasive. Perhaps the media has worn us down over the years ("Meet Linda O'brien, she doesn't have health insurance..." or "Juan Carlos opposes the illegal immigration bill because he thinks he has only one chance to get his family here from Guatemala...").

Personally, I hope that the environmental groups keep suing over the coal plant. I have a kid who is going to need a car in a couple years, and if they keep suing, sooner or later I'll get in on that and make some money to buy that car..."



Anonymous said...

It sounds like he set himself up to fail in life. He appears to be marketing himself in one skill that limits his opportunity for work.

His problem is no different than a college professor who specializes in certain field. Both are limited in job opportunity by choosing to work in specialized fields.

Treasure State Jew said...

Anon; Going into plumbing/pipefitting sets a person up to fail in life? This is a highly specialized skill, for which there always be work in a growing economy.

Has your toilet never backed up?

Geeguy, I don't necessarily think that Jeff's argument has much to do with his personal situation. Rather, it is an argument geared toward the plumbers, electricians and carpenters in our community.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My family are friends with the Legg's.

Anonymous said...


I think you missed the part where I specifically noted "marketing himself in ONE skill" and "specializes in a certain field."

In today's business climate you need to have a broad enough skill set to be successful regardless of the market or be willing to move where the work is.

Jeff obviously had to move because the supply for his skill exceeds the demand.

The more specialized skill you have the more you have to rely on unions. The more diversified your educational and skill background the more opportunity you have to succeed on your own.

That's what's great about America. You can be an employee or an entreprenuer. Both have risks but those who take the greater risk ususally enjoy the greater rewards.

Anonymous said...

TSJ, some of us feel the idea of jobs for the coal plant equate to jobs for unemployed nazis that built concentration camps. How about jobs for ghetto youths selling meth. They all have families to support so who can knock them?

Jobs are great but the outcome sucks in each case.

Media bleeding heart cases insult both sides.

Anonymous said...

Many people who grew up here and went into the trades have left for Washington, Oregon and California because there simply inst much work in Montana. Many of those people badly want to come back and they make very good money. Unfortunately, Jeff's letter is futile, the plant will never be built. Ever.

GeeGuy said...

TSJ, I read his letter more personally. Of course you could be right.

The environment vs. jobs tradeoff is nothing new. This one is tough, though.

Anonymous said...

How is this debate tough Greg?


a-fire-fly said...

You guys are totally missing a key point.
This town and this state could use plenty more plumbers and pipefitters. However UNION plumbers demand so much more than private shops to get the bid, union shops cannot compete in this town.
I also call BS on the trades having to leave, and no market for "specialized" skills. A hard working journeyman plumber or electrician, can make a good living in this town, period.

And TSJ, why don't you ask your friend how many backed up toilets he is fixing as a union plumber/ pipefitter who would be qualified to work on a commercial project the scale of Highwood?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I thought that the letter was pathetic. I mean, let's not forget one thing here. The health effects of a plant like this are NOT theoretical, they are VERIFIABLE! In other words, the post above about the Nazis, although a bit extreme, is accurate. People WILL indeed suffer health effects from such a plant. SO, the big question becomes, what kind of person would injure others to obtain a job?? THAT'S what I thought when I read the letter. Hey, I couldn't do it. And I fully support unions. And for the record, my great granddaddy was a miner, my granddaddy was a miner, and by father also mined for a time. My wife's family even longer. Same thing. And they ALL fought like hell for the unions. They fought the mine owners thugs. (literally) So, I grew up in a union family from day one. But what my ancestors NEVER forgot is the common good, and taking care of their fellow man. That's what unions are all about. They would NEVER harm others for a job. Most of us have moved beyond the days of creating Berkley Pits in order to survive. This letter writer thinks that Montana is Appalachia. It isn't. We aren't so economically depressed that we'll allow mountaintop removal. Look, even animals don't sh*t in their own nests. And Montanans don't sh*t in paradise! Sure, it's hard to survive here. But we do what we have to do to live here willingly just SO that we don't have to live in sh*t! There's plenty of other places out there to go where sh*t already exists. So, my advice to this young man would be right outta Horace Greely's mouth. Go west, young man. Or east. That's good too. Or south, as you have done. Or even up north. The Cannucks LOVE pollution. But stay here if you're willing to do what the rest of us do in order to survive, and enjoy paradise. It's worth it.


Anonymous said...

It appears too many people do not understand the principles of free markets and the laws of economics.

Recommended reading - especially directed to the current Commissioners & Mayor:

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Anonymous said...

Free market??? What a joke. Tell me, where was the "free markety" in the heapleach goldmining issue? Or the energy policy formulated by the dick, cheney, behind closed doors in secret meetings? Don't post jokes.


ZenPanda said...

It is hard to face after you find your passion/what you are good at is a skill/trade that is not in demand where you want to live. I had to teach somewhere else before I could work for the GFPS. It happens.

You either move to where you can make the kind of living you want or you find another type of work to tide you over.

But I like the "lawsuits to pay for my kids car" bit. A good point.

How long would the jobs last at the power plant? Are they needed 24/7 or just during phases of the project?

Anonymous said...

ZenPanda - Great Questions!

1) How long would the jobs last at the power plant?
2) Are they needed 24/7 or just during phases of the project?

According to FireFly, you can be an employee or an entreprenuer in Great Falls depending upon the risk you take?

The question on my mind is,

How do people feel about the money union folks make?

a-fire-fly said...

"you can be an employee or an entreprenuer in Great Falls depending upon the risk you take?"
I would hazard a guess that is true anywhere, and it is not a fair assesment of what I said.

My point is, there are plumbing shops in Great Falls Mt. that need plumbers. They are not union. This gentleman, for reasons not expressed in his letter, choses to work only as a union plumber. That is his choice, and is why he has to travel for work.

Zen, most of the jobs would go in phases. They may work 24/7 for periods of time, but not every trade for the duration of construction, which will take a couple years.

Anonymous said...

Plumbers (my grandpa was a plumber, a worthy trade) could be key players in renewable energy, installing solar water heating systems on our gov't buildings and schools.....so WHY isn't city officials taking some bold 'baby' steps to start this, and also promoting renewable energy enterprises that can 'retrofit' existing homes, etc? Building this
coal plant is still like wearing our 'cleanest dirty shirt'...renewable energy helps farmers and ranchers also through wind turbine leases, solar potential and biomass production...and farmers and ranchers 'grunt' just as hard as any union workers...HGS squanders $$$, has a proven adverse impact on our health and property values, degrades our integrity and national heritage and inhibits real commitment to alternative energy, which is THE new economy for this century......

Anonymous said...

I think the figure was 80 permanent jobs created at the plant.

The real loss are the sales lost by local businesses like General Distributing, Steel ETC, Northwest Pipe and hundreds more who employ thousands in Great Falls.


Anonymous said...

SME promised NOTHING about buying materials locally (other than minor items), as Alstom, the boiler
and plant producer, will most likely bring in their own materials...FYI, Alstom is owned by France........

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet most of the steel would come in from china or Korea

Anonymous said...

Kinda like the French built Malting plant? Governor Martz gave them 90 million and they created 40 jobs-most of which went to people who transfered here with the company.