Made-in-Montana energy means good Montana jobs that on average pay two to three times more than the state average. Montana’s ability to create more good-paying energy jobs is immense — in fact, our state leads the nation in coal deposits. We are the nation’s fifth-largest producer of hydropower, with 23 hydroelectric dams across our state, and fifth in wind energy potential.
Montana is at the center stage of the national energy debate and provides the nation a template of a true all-of-the-above energy portfolio — we have coal, natural gas and oil, as well as renewables such as hydro, wind, biomass and solar opportunities. What makes our state most valuable are the people who make our energy systems work, towns like Colstrip that build communities around livelihoods reliant on good-paying energy jobs: That is the good news.
The bad news: Montana energy jobs are under assault.
The past two weeks, I’ve heard from thousands of Montanans about the future and importance of made-in-Montana energy and made-in-Montana good-paying jobs.
During my weeklong tour across our state, I saw once again our vast natural resources and our true energy potential — from touring a wind farm near Baker to seeing the hydropower facility at Helena’s Hauser Dam to hosting a town hall in Colstrip — hearing directly from the community about the devastating effects President Obama’s anti-coal regulations will have on hardworking Montanans.
My statewide energy tour culminated this week at Montana Energy 2016, where over 600 people gathered in Billings for a Montana family conversation about our state’s energy future.
During the two-and-a-half-day summit, we heard a consistent and powerful message about the need to maximize our opportunity for growth and expand made-in-Montana energy and the good-paying jobs it supports.
Montanans are leading American energy innovation — Montanans’ like Chrystal Cuniff, a Montana Tech engineer from Choteau who’s helped drill the deepest well in the Gulf of Mexico or Ryan Lance, a Montana native, who’s leading one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world. Ashley Dennehey from Colstrip highlighted how the boilermakers, operators and other hardworking labor groups in her community are working hard to keep the lights on in the face of adversity.
We must continue investing in our two-year colleges that provide training in trades like welding and heavy machine operations, so we can keep our kids here with good-paying energy jobs. And, we can’t forget that Montana coal provides tax revenues of $145 million year, which support our teachers and schools.
Montana should lead the world in developing clean coal technology. We must continue to develop renewable technologies that will store the power created by wind. We should not allow Washington, D.C., and the Obama administration to dictate and regulate coal and gas out of existence.
We need more made-in-Montana energy, not more made-in-the-Middle-East energy.
Make no mistake, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency regulations are killing Montana energy. Our country’s future is bright if we can unleash the power of innovation and rein in the overregulation of Washington, D.C.
I couldn’t agree more with what Chairman of the Crow Nation Darrin Old Coyote said in his keynote address at Montana Energy 2016, “All of Montana citizens need to work together for a better tomorrow: renewable energy, fossil energy, conventional energy, Indian or non-Indian. Regardless of political affiliation, whether we are Democrats, Republicans or Independents.”
Montanans can find better solutions than Washington, D.C., bureaucrats.
Steve Daines is one of Montana’s U.S. senators.