Energy Montana Politics Steve Bullock

Do Montana Democrats Need Coal and the Keystone XL Pipeline?

I don’t have the answer but certainly have an opinion.

This week there’s an energy conference in Missoula featuring representatives from three Asian countries, Canada and the U.S.  It looks to be covering most of the bases, from coal and oil to wind and solar to nuclear.

Governor Steve Bullock helped to kick off the event, heaping praise on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

He (Bullock) said the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline provides an opportunity for the state, and one that can help move the nation closer to energy independence.

“Responsible development of America’s oil resources will play an important part of our energy portfolio for the foreseeable future,” Bullock said. “If done correctly and with the appropriate regulation, long-term oversight and recognition that 100,000 barrels will come in from the Baker area, Keystone does have the ability to add vitality to our state and our communities.”

He also gave a nod to coal.

Bullock said the state’s coal industry currently provides 2,300 jobs and delivers $160 million in new taxes to the general fund each year.

And Bullock isn’t the only elected statewide Democrat supporting the fossil fuel industry.  Sen. Tester and all those on the Land Commission, with the possible exception of Superintendent Denise Juneau, pitch the pipeline and continued mining of coal.

But not everyone is happy about this.  About 80 protesters, representing Blue Skies Campaign, 350-Missoula and Reinvest Montana, showed up yesterday at UM to bring attention to climate change.  The photo above is from the event (courtesy of Jeffrey J. Smith).

Also relevant are some of the comments that showed up on social media when the Bullock story was posted.

He’s worried about re-election. I’m worried, as well. We would be in a terrible place with a Republican governor, terrible.


If you want to win an election, you have to be a realist. Would you rather have a governor called Greg (Gianforte)?

Just how realistic are these concerns?  In October, 2011, MSU Billings ran a poll that found 64 percent of Montanans supporting the pipeline, with 14 percent opposed and 22 percent undecided.

Still, I believe history will judge harshly those who continued to advance fossil fuel production in the face of climate change science.  We know where Republicans are on this issue and they will be vilified by our grandchildren as the world suffers through droughts and fires and other natural disasters brought on by a changing climate.

So, Democrats, do we accept short-term electoral losses and play the long game in the name of future generations? Do we aggressively pursue a different model on jobs, natural resource extraction and the environment? And will candidates who stand against the pipeline and continued coal development really alienate all those much needed independents and assorted Eastern Montana Democratic voters?  Or do we fall back on placating the polls?

If you can answer these questions, faithful readers, it would be greatly appreciated.



If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

  • Don,

    I vote Democrat and usually think Independent.

    Your Post raises up critical questions and urges answers by Democrats.

    Well, where I live, the New Republicans are much more than a dominant Political Party. And sometimes the best way to resist selfish, disruptive, disorderly, dis-legal, outside money in MT, is to not be an active Democrat.

    So welcome to file this Post aside from Democrat to Democrat Postings.

    Regarding answers about BURNING COAL IN MONTANA, sure seems to be in large part, a propaganda problem.

    Now I suggest a new way to look at KXL LP.
    As mass media merchandising propaganda so successfull that now we have something like ‘propaganda think’//propaganda NO THINK ! !

    Somehow big problems with the Keystone Limited Partnership proposition, have been swept out of mass media, mental thought, themes and memes. Swept into NO THINK files, often deleted.

    *Under employment. Six Pump Stations in Mt. All locked and controlled from Calgary. For instance, no employees stationed on South Bank of Missouri River at Fort Peck Pump Station. While big picture appears to be under employment of stable, skilled Refinery jobs at a REGIONAL REFINERY for Bakken crude.

    *Under reporting how much coal will be burned to pump West Canadian Sedimentary dilbit through Montana. Each of five Pump Stations in MT operate five, 6,500 hp electric motors. The most energy use of all the proposed KXL Pump Stations, is the Fort Peck Station, challenged to impel some 570 barrels of dilbit a minute, at 1600 psi, in a 36″ diameter seam welded pipe up a steep hill into the Eastern Missouri River Breaks, and on to the Pump Station at Circle, MT.

    *Under reporting identities of the Limited Partners of KXL LP. For instance which likely non-American entities are granted the ability to operate a private pipeline thru MT, at no charge for Right of Way?
    And go on to put more mercury in the Waters of Montana, by burning up a lot of Powder River coal each year for fifty years ?

    *Under reporting identities of KXL LP. Their Registration with MT SOS expired last year! Are new Limited Partners shoe-horned into existing MT DNRC Approval Major Facility Siting for KXL LP?

    *Under reporting that the emergency response Equipment and Contract Personnel Base for Montana, will be located in South Dakota.

    (Gosh, that doesn’t pass the sniff test from a mile away. Smells like burning rubber and diesel, to store river boats and snowmobiles and weather appropriate gas masks in South Dakota.)

    Sorry this got too long.
    On to more salient, forward thinking, Posts!

    Bob Williams

  • Pete,

    Thank you for posting this important question.

    How can one be a (Republican or Democrat) “realist” knowing that we live in the last place with a real chance of preventing the destruction of every last self-sustaining, wild, free, natural landscape in the Lower 48? More human domination is no solution. What kind of ethical politics advocates for more human domination of the natural world?

    This bioregion is one fragment of what’s left of the only natural world we will ever have. If we destroy this too we are no longer talking about human existence as we have known it since our beginning.

    Instead of advocating for or against more (oil and coal) destruction, why not consider a positive message — something real — that’s for preventing the total destruction of nature and natural processes? Isn’t nature and natural processes what draws people here from places where nature has already been completely dominated by man’s activities? Just a thought.

    • Hmmm. The answers to most of your questions, Steve, are easily resolvable if one accepts that we are part of the ‘natural’ world. It’s not a matter of the backhanded insult “dominion”, it’s rather genetics. We are at the top of the food chain, the water chain, the resource chain. We created the idea of nature, with us somehow opposed or removed from it. We created politics and policy. We created “ethics”. And you ask why we should ‘dominate’ a concept that we ourselves created?

      Now before you go all “Boo hoo hoo, that mean Kailey is snarking on me” again, consider this: holding something as pristine and pure, untouched by man, is a ridiculous notion. There are no ethics that support such a lame vision. We’ve touched everything, Oh, there might be a couple of square feet of ground no human has trod upon, but there are none untouched by human impact. Not one. Focusing on the ethics of protecting nature is a loser, both ethically and politically. However, focusing on leaving fossil fuels behind as a way to save a natural species isn’t. We like to see ‘nature’, to ‘experience it’. We, humans, have shown a remarkable capacity for saving species we like to look at, save only one. Just in case you missed the obvious, ultimately that species would be ours. I doubt you did miss that.

      Yet species are still going extinct due to self-interest on the part of the killers. That’s why Democrats support policy bad for the species, because certain sub-segments of the species need such death to survive. Because we created politics as a means for somewhat peaceful survival, Democrats and Republicants are more than happy to seek survival for those threatened by change, and that interest is not just a will to be re-elected. It is an untenable will that no one be sacrificed at the alter of species survival. Are you getting it yet? No one, Democrat or Republicant, is willing to tell people that they must suffer so that others will live, nor should they be.

      Enter the extremist enviro-preservationists, who tell us all that somehow the woods and nature and fluffy forest critters are more important than anyone of the species and carry more ethical value. It is obvious to even the most ignorant of urban-besotted upright talking monkeys just how ludicrous that notion is. If you want, and it seems you do, to support a losing campaign of ‘earth justice’, than by all means tell people how much more morally valuable sage brush covered hillocks are than employment digging up what’s beneath that,. However …

      I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness. Instead of edumacating people about the ‘ethics’ of a pretty snapshot, how about focusing clearly on the mofos who profit from fossil fuel extraction. Instead of whining about party politics while pretending you don’t, shut up about the supremacy of ‘nature’ and actually help people get jobs doing things that won’t kill the species. Several Democrats ran for office this past year who supported nature friendly policy but pinheads called them collaborators and refused to get out the vote for such vile Demoncrats. Most of them lost. Funny that.

      • “Several Democrats ran for office this past year who supported nature friendly policy but pinheads called them collaborators and refused to get out the vote for such vile Demoncrats.”

        Sounds interesting Rob. Can you provide names and specific examples of such supposed ‘nature friendly policy’ please? Except for Adams I can’t recall a state-wide Montana Dem who didn’t campaign (loudly) as being (very) pro-Keystone XL, pro-coal and pro-mandated public lands logging. Thanks.

  • I was talking about domination. It seems to me that liberation from all forms of domination is an essential objective of any ethical or political system. Policies of domination subvert both nature and human existence. When we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. It’s not complicated.

  • Pete: Democrats don’t need the pipeline, but in MT they can’t afford to oppose it. The tar sands are a bit dirtier than other fossil fuels, and so I see the value in blocking Keystone, but the final decision comes down to the State Department – the benefits of our statewide officials opposing what is essentially an executive decision, compared to the downsides for accomplishing anything else, are just not there. Coal is a slightly different story – here State officials have real control, but the symbolic value of the dispute is still more clear than the practical benefits. Unless MT coal or the lack of it can fundamentally alter global energy economics, we’re just playing ‘not in my back yard’, especially because our coal has somewhat lower marginal societal costs than the alternatives.

    Ultimately though I think you present a false dilemma: short term electoral losses and short term support of fossil fuels has the same environmental outcome – approval of more fossil fuel projects – but dramatically different effects on other aspects of government. Over the past three or four sessions, Dems have successfully played to the center and watched the GOP veer right to their detriment. It hasn’t gotten us everything we’ve wanted, but we’ve fared better than most other GOP-leaning states. Until we’ve got a better chance of winning our statewide elections with outright majorities – and not paper-thin ones ala Denise Juneau’s last election – I’ll certainly not blame Democrats for siding with the nearly 2/3rds of Montanans who I think are personally wrong on this issue.

  • Check out the probable identities,
    of the Limited Partners to the KXL proposition!

    What is the KXL proposition?
    A global capital arbitrage operation, WITH HUGE INCENTIVES.

    Arbitrage. Buy landlocked Alberta bitumen, dissolve it with “natural gas condensates” (PENNIES A GALLON FOR N.G.C.), convey the dilbit to Nederland hub to tank farms of five tidewater seaport, dilbit optimized refineries. One refinery being American owned.

    Incentives. EXEMPT from PHMSA 8 cents per barrel to pipeline hazardous liquids FEE. Southern leg of KXL EXEMPT, from NEPA

    INCENTIVES IN MONTANA! Free Right of Way! Right to contract to burn HUGE AMOUNTS coal BUT exhaust CO2 and mercury.

    Incentives to the financial market from (so far),
    hidden identities of the Limited Partners,
    constituting the KXL proposition!
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Let’s see how TPP will treat EXPORTS from KXL supplied refineries!

    Let’s be ready just in case, Equities and Bonds go south,
    real disposable income gets worse, and new housing, also tool and die makers, stay down. And 2nd Quarter GDP is also less that 2%

    If employment gets much worse, then will come the call of old, ‘build the pipeline, put tens of thousands to work.’

    What was it Mitch said, something like . . . .
    ‘Why it’s just amazing how many jobs KXL would create!’

  • Nobody except the libertarians were against the KeyStone pipeline based on property rights. Those in the Big Government party want the pipeline and don’t care about our rights. Why would these politicians support corporate rights to condemn our property. Remember HB 198 in the 2011 legislature that said a corporation could condemn our property for there bottom line. Ryan Zinke was one who supported Corporations over individual rights. I guess our Governor would agree with Zinke on this issue.

  • imo the KXL Bakken Market Link has long been a failed concept, perhaps mostly a ruse, pretending that American Crude could go into the KXL system.

    Activists point out that without Bakken Crude being pumped into the Alberta dilbit already in the line, KXL LP may become a Private Carrier,
    Granted the Incentive of, Common Carrier status.

    In 2008 Conoco pulled out as a Limited Partner of KXL, and pivoted to fracking old holdings.

    Out of Nederland KXL hub, Royal Dutch Shell has the biggest dilbit optimized refinery(1/2 owned by ?Family of Saud), and in Alberta RDS owns the most extensive operations to mine bitumen, and process out dilbit.

    Conjecturally Royal Dutch Shell has several financial shells in its’ Alberta Dilbit Supply Chain.

    . . . . . . . . .

    Ever seen a D-8 Cat run with a gasoline motor?
    Outside the USA, the world runs on diesel. #1 Diesel consumption —

    Outside the USA there is a market for grades of Coke made from high carbon dilbit.

    The forward market curves for diesel and dilbit coke, will continue to rise faster than do population curves.

    Like many knew last year, KXL would export ultra low sulfur diesel to Europe.
    Diesel for busses and trucks in Africa and South America. Twice a year for ag work. Most of year for mining operations. All year for ocean tankers, in Navy protected shipping lanes.

    A problem being, roughly speaking, that diesel combustion exhaust is much more lethal, than is the exhaust from combustion of gasoline.

    There’s built-in (TPP approvable?)eco-cide and genocide
    far beyond both ends
    of the KXL LP proposition.

    A kind of dilbit to diesel domain,
    of presently unidentified Limited Partners.

    That may never happen. Maybe KXL LP will go away like
    the proposed Northern Tier Pipeline.

  • Hmmmm… know, some of us are pro fossil fuel, but are also in favor of a carbon tax to make fossil fuel more expensive to shift the economic balance to alternative energy sources. The best solution would seem to rely on multiple sources of energy, without banning one outright. I, for one, would be happy to pay $8 a gallon for gas and make the Chinese pay triple their current cost for Montana coal, if those taxes go to promote better energy technologies in the long run.

  • You are right. Mt Coal should be sold dear. Treasure State coal!

    We did, for awhile. But Powder River Coal flooded the market, and now
    two big forces may keep coal cheap.

    Chinese GDP gone from 6% to maybe 2%. China putting underemployed people to work at more solar power electric grid. China may demand less MT Coal.

    And China will pay less Yuan, should the Dollar weaken, while the Yuan strenghthens.

    Fewer Dollars would flow to producers of MT wheat, and suppliers of MT Coal. Fewer dollars to miners of copper.

    How about copper and crops in Chile? Beef in Australia?

    Maybe China has another dust storm and has to pay above market for MT wheat!

    With stuff like that in mind,
    now enters Fast Track TPP. ?Written by Industry and Governments?

    With one Chapter(maybe removeable) about Trade Disputes go to International Tribunal.

    Here’s a crazy example. China concludes MT Coal Tax is not in proportion to the broad market, is too darn high, relatively, so high it has become in fact a barrier to . . . the flow of rational capital. China argues in the Tribunal that Montana charging an unequitable amount of coal tax. China argues succesfully: “It’s not fair to the world market. MT has Tax Holiday for Bakken Investors, but over taxes MT coal, by 10%.”

    Another crazy example. China and India go to Tribunals arguing to dis-incentivise GMO projects.

    Or there’s some famine in India or China, and the Tribunal judges what is indeed a fair price for corn, soybeans and wheat.

    Or, remembering what you said, how about if China would argue in the Tribunal,
    that not having a Carbon Tax, must be penalized!

    Good Post, Drunks for Denny, linking carbon tax here to carbon tax there, IN OUR MINDS!

  • New reason KXL LP proposition may go away!

    New Democratic Party now in charge in Alberta!
    Awesome TV graphics of red to blue “Seats.”

    New leader Rachel Notley seems to say no more Alberta Government Loonies spent Lobbying for KXL LP in Washington DC. Seems to be anti KXL LP proposition, while favoring railroad transport of Alberta bitumen based products.

    But maybe big story involves Alberta voters wanting clean energy jobs,
    and finaly, a bold step out of the export-extraction market.

    And move into adding value to the bitumen, by refining bitumen into petroleum products, in Alberta, with Alberta workers.

    However, from what I’ve gathered, short term investors seek out oligopolies in extraction-export markets.

    ((Seperably, both Alberta and “the Bakken”, might well enjoy long term benefits, of adding value to “Crude Oil” now exported. But QE financed capital systems dis-favor long term capital formation for new domestic refineries.))

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    If KXL LP now less likely, on to Posts about Montana Coal!

    For instance, if ‘The Legislature’ shirked and shucked and walked out on the job, three days before the job was done.

    And The Governor called The Legislators back into Session.

    What’s going on, and forward,
    with export of coal from Montana?

    Relatedly, with coal burned mercury in the waters held in Trust by the State of Montana!

Support Our Work!

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

Subscribe Via E-mail


What Industry Will Republicans Prop Up with Corporate Welfare Next?

Follow us on Twitter

0 /* ]]> */