Daines Investigates Importance of Coal to Tribal Economies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines today chaired a Senate Indian Affairs Committee (SCIA) field hearing in Crow Agency, Montana on empowering Indian Country.

Daines examined the need to responsibly develop coal resources as a vital component of the tribal economies along with the importance of access to international markets. Daines spoke with Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) harmful policies that stand in the way of the tribes’ ability to develop their coal resources and create good paying jobs. Daines also questioned Chairman Old Coyote on the economic benefits of making permanent the Indian Production Coal Tax Credit. 

“It’s an honor to be on the Crow Reservation today examining an issue that means a great deal not only to Indian Country, but to all Montanans and Americans,” Daines stated. “What gets lost in the debate back in Washington about energy development in general, and coal in particular, is what it means to real people in places like Crow Agency, Montana, where this is not an abstract policy debate in the halls of Congress, but a debate about the lives of real people, and the future of sovereign nations looking to be self-sufficient and provide for their own livelihood.”

In today’s hearing Daines pressed Montana Attorney General Tim Fox on the economic benefits of coal production on Indian land and its overarching benefits to the state’s economy as a whole. 

Key Montana witnesses shared their perspectives about Daines’ hearing on the importance of coal to the economy of Indian Country. 

“I am grateful to Senator Daines for calling attention to this important issue and giving a voice to those who were ignored during the EPA’s rule-making process,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Coal mining provides the Crow Nation with family-wage jobs, revenue for vital services, and a path toward greater self-sufficiency. Our fellow Montanans in Indian Country shouldn’t be the latest casualties in the war on coal, and they deserve to be heard.”

“I simply desire for the Crow Nation to become self-sufficient by developing its own coal resources and to provide basic services for the health, hopes and future of the Crow people,” Chairman Darrin Old Coyote stated. “With help from you – our historic treaty ally – in leveling the energy development playing field, we can achieve my vision and both benefit immensely.”

“I suggest that responsible coal development can be a major key enabling the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and its members to rise out of poverty and achieve self- sufficiency,” Jason Small stated. “Your national leadership and compassion for the native people is essential in this struggle. Please keep up the good fight, particularly with the unrealistic and punitive regulations being pushed by EPA. While know, that additional regulations will be mandated, they must be pursued in a reasonable manner which will not devastate the economy of southeastern Montana and still allow for responsible development.”

Full prepared testimony from today’s hearing is available here

Witnesses from Daines’ SCIA field hearing included:

  • The Honorable Darrin Old Coyote, Chairman, Crow Tribe of Montana, Crow Agency, Montana
  • The Honorable Tim Fox, Attorney General of Montana, Montana Department of Justice, Helena, Montana 
  • The Honorable Lorenzo Bates, Speaker, Navajo Nation Council, Window Rock, Arizona
  • Jason Small, Journeyman Boilermaker, Labor Advocate and Northern Cheyenne Tribal Member, Boilermakers Local #11 – East Helena, Busby, Montana
  • Eric Henson, Senior Vice President at Compass Lexecon and Research Fellow at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Tucson, Arizona