Montana Democrats are Wrong on Coal

by William Skink

Montana Democrats just don’t want to quit coal. 30 years ago Democrat Governor Ted Schwinden slashed the severance tax to make Montana coal more competitive with Wyoming. More recently, Governor Schweitzer, the coal cowboy, touted the pipe-dream of clean coal. And now, facing new rules over emissions, Governor Bullock is hemming and hawing about his disappointment, demanding the Obama administration fund research to make coal clean so Montana can keep peddling this dirty energy supply for decades:

Bullock also called upon the Obama administration to immediately dedicate more funding to low-carbon coal research, saying: “If we are to address climate change, we need to do so in a common sense way. There is no practical path forward that doesn’t rely on coal for the next several decades and we need to invest now in ways to make coal generation cleaner.”

Earlier this month, Pete Talbot pointed out how the Governor is stacking his “citizen council”, tasked with reducing emissions to comply with the EPA, with industry loyalists:

Governor Steve Bullock announced his picks for the citizen council that will draft an energy emissions plan. Montana must cut its carbon emissions by 47 percent by 2030 to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules. A plan for doing so needs to be submitted to the EPA by midsummer.

As MTN’s Mike Dennison notes, the council isn’t lacking in members from the energy industry. I would have liked to have seen more people from environmental groups and the climate sciences (Nobel Peace Prize recipient and UM Professor Steve Running?) but as usual, the administration didn’t consult me. I wish the council the best of luck in coming to a solution.

I don’t know, does this count as criticism? You would think that before an election would be an ideal time to try and pressure a leader of your political party to actually lead the state away from destructive energy policies. Or maybe winning the election is more important than standing up for one’s values.

George Ochenski offers some better criticism of Bullock as he joins forces with Republicans to sue the Federal government:

One of the big stories from last week was Arch Coal, one of the nation’s largest coal producers, following a handful of other large coal companies into bankruptcy. Then China, one of the primary markets for export coal, announced it would no longer issue new coal mining permits. On Friday Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said her agency is halting new coal leases on federal lands until it conducts a comprehensive review of fees on mining and coal’s impact on the environment. Toss in a precipitous drop in oil prices to less than $30 a barrel and it appears King Coal isn’t just sick, it’s dang near dead.

What’s strange, especially here in Montana, is the reaction of our politicians from both parties to what seems the inescapable conclusion that coal’s big day on the energy stage is over. Instead, faced with upcoming moves by both the Oregon and Washington state legislatures to reduce reliance on coal-fired energy, politicians from Gov. Steve Bullock on down are digging in their heels in a futile attempt to derail the inevitable shutdown of Colstrip’s oldest and dirtiest power plants.

Point in case is the industry-dominated committee Bullock appointed to push back against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Why any “leader” in the era of global climate change and its increasingly disastrous consequences would want to defend coal energy is a good question. But that’s just what Montana’s politicians are doing.

Republican Attorney General Tim Fox has tossed his hat – and taxpayer-funded lawyers – into the fray by joining 27 other states in a lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. Bullock has previously indicated support for Fox’s intervention on behalf of coal while saying Montana cannot let the federal government dictate what happens in Montana. Really? What’s next, secession?

Yeah Bullock, don’t let the federal government dictate what happens in Montana. If you need some allies, I hear there’s some dudes in Oregon who feel the same away about the Feds.

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About William Skink

I'm a poet and political cynic living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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3 Responses to Montana Democrats are Wrong on Coal

  1. JC says:

    Don’t let the fed dictate what happens in Montana but give us money to do clean coal research. Right. Last time the feds setup a research facility in Montana for burning coal — studying MHD in Butte — the Clinton admin abandoned the project, privatized it (MSE, Inc. bought out the DOE facility), and allowed the company to shut down the project and liquidate the physical plant. There even was a pilot project to convert the old Corrette coal burning facility in Billings to MHD. Clinton let that project die with the MHD research in Butte, too.

    MHD, while not the “clean” coal panacea everybody is wet dreaming about, was considerably more efficient, and had potential mechanisms to scrub some of the pollutants and carbon out. Why did the DOE cease MHD research?: “the work was suspended [mid-90s] when national objectives in energy research changed” (read “natural gas and fracking”).

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  2. Craig Moore says:

    Steve Running did NOT receive a Nobel. The Nobel committee rebuked Michael Mann for making such a claim. They both served on the IPCC. The participants received a commemorative certificate of involvement from UN’s Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, NOT even from the Noble committee. For Dr. Running or a diligent journalist to misrepresent his “award” sorta undermines any reflected gravitas flowing from a real Nobel award. Using the appeal to authority argument is not a good idea under such circumstances. Also keep in mind that the Noble Peace Prize has nothing to do with any of the Nobel awards in the science fields.

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  3. steve kelly says:

    Dr. Running has demonstrated weakness when it comes to protecting forests. Forests sequester carbon. So does coal left in the ground. Could be as simple as his connection to U.M. School of Forestry. Some high profile Democrats run this same “coal bad-logging good” game for some unknown reason.

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