Daines talks energy issues in roundtable


U.S. Rep. Steve Daines spent an afternoon in Miles City last week, hosting a roundtable discussion with community members and local state legislators on a variety of topics facing eastern Montana.

Environmental Protection Agency regulations, coal and the Keystone XL pipeline project were at the forefront of the meeting, which lasted just over an hour. Daines listened to concerns and assured those in attendance he would continue to fight for Montana jobs.

"It's very encouraging to see the large turnouts we've been getting at these roundtables," Daines said. "Around the state, I continue to talk about more jobs and less government. I think we're seeing clearly as government gets bigger, as regulations increase, it has a direct effect on jobs in Montana."

Daines outlined an executive order by Washington State governor Jay Inslee to reduce carbon pollution in that state, in part by eliminating coal-fired electricity imported from other states. Daines sent a letter to Inslee encouraging him to consider the impacts the order would have on Montana workers and families.

"In Montana, we know that coal is the most reliable, abundant and cost effective form of electrical generation," Daines said. "But more importantly, to Montana, coal means jobs. Colstrip station is responsible for 3,740 Montana jobs. This could force Colstrip to close base load electrical generation units totaling 2100 megawatts. Colstrip Station currently sends power to electric utilities that serve more than 1.8 million customers in the state of Washington."

Daines cited the divide between rural and urban factions of the federal government as one of the challenges Montana faces back in D.C.

"This divide between those of us who are standing up for the voice of rural America and rural Montana versus the many back there representing the urban areas is very difficult," he explained. "Washington, D.C. comes out with these one-size-fits-all regulations, and they don't fit Montana, or Eastern Montana."

With the growth in Eastern Montana as a result of the energy boom, Daines said the area is seeing the growth of new, high-paying jobs. But the new jobs bring new challenges, especially with infrastructure.

"First, the infrastructure of the areas impacted by the boom are being stressed beyond capacity," he said. "Second, we're starting to see challenges for farmers and ranchers who can't keep up with the wage increases to keep their work force intact. It was good to hear both sides. The good news is economic development is providing these high-paying jobs; the bad for many is it's hard to find good help for the farmers and ranchers." 

The Keystone XL pipeline project remains a priority for Daines, though the Obama administration continues to block the project. Daines serves as lead co-sponsor of H.R. 3, known in Washington, D.C. as the Northern Route Approval Act, which would allow construction of the pipeline, effectively bypassing the need for the president's approval. The House passed the bill a year ago, though the Senate has not brought it forward for a vote.

"With the latest  delay to Keystone XL pipeline approval, Obama once again chooses political expediency over creating hundreds of good Montana jobs and growing Montana’s energy sector," Daines said. "It's very frustrating. The president has failed to lead in this project, and now the Senate has failed to move on this. I think it's a failure in leadership by both. We passed a solid bill in the House approving the Keystone pipeline. It took Canada seven months to approve this project, and here we are six years later with nothing being built. That's just a failure in leadership."