Montana Politics

Orwellian Luddite Daines

Sen. Steve Daines keeps talking about war. Not war in the Middle East or North Africa — those are a given — but the “war on coal.”

It’s now defined by the senator as “an all-fronts assault on affordable energy and good-paying union and tribal jobs.” It’s heartwarming to see Daines’ newfound concern for unions and tribes. But it’s his confrontation with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and his Orwellian use of  “affordable energy” and “killing the coal industry” that caught my attention.

When Daines says “affordable energy,” he means coal. If you look at the leveled cost of electricity (LCOE) then “affordable” is a reasonably accurate term for coal, although hydro, offshore wind, geothermal and natural gas come in cheaper. Then, when factors such as people’s health, agricultural productivity, flooding, fires, oceanic dead zones, etc., are factored in, the cost of burning coal goes way up. From the Atlantic:

Accounting for these damages conservatively doubles or triples the price of electricity from coal per kilowatt hour generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of non-fossil fuel generation…economically competitive.

Daines calls climate change “negligible.” Tell that to the folks in Miami who face $416 billion in loses due to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

He gets most of his climate change statistics from the Cato Institute, a Koch brothers “think tank.” And he cherry picks Montana job and economic loss figures from a UM study here, which is debunked here and here.

His latest opinion piece is titled, “Protecting the Montana way of life.” While touting hunting and fishing and access to public lands, he says:

Montana’s best paying jobs rely on our wealth of natural resources … We still have more work to do to fight back against Washington, D.C., anti-energy regulations that will cripple Montana’s economy.

He forwards a mix of accelerated climate change and protecting our outdoor legacy and having great paying jobs (although unless you’re a Copper King, I don’t believe natural resource extraction offers “Montana’s best paying jobs”). The reality is we can only get two out of the three. And we should be doing everything possible to take accelerated climate change out of the equation.

Meanwhile, Daines calls the people who really want to protect Montana’s clean and healthful environment “fringe groups” and “extreme environmentalists.” (“Clean and healthful environment” comes from the Montana Constitution, Article II, Section 3, Inalienable Rights.)

The future is not based on burning fossil fuels. It’s moving from extractables to renewables, and having the workforce, technology and infrastructure in place. Montana could be a leader or we could be left behind. Your choice, Sen. Daines.



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  • Daines ignores today’s marketplace, where King Coal is in bankruptcy court due to an inability to compete with low-cost natural gas, with renewables contributing at the margins.
    And his resource extraction obsession is logical only if you want to consider Montana’s “way of life” as the Third World version, commonly found in places like Nigeria, where raw materials are extracted and exploited elsewhere, along with the value-added profit.
    The strength of the capitalist, competitive, free-market that Daines claims to represent is the agility of that system to adapt to new realities and shift course to a better future. But Daines is blind because of his ideology, which requires him to find someone else to blame.

    • The E.J. Corette plant in Billings closed because it spewed mercury into the atmosphere and PPL decided it was too costly to install pollution controls. Familiar with the term “mad as a hatter,” Swede? It came about from chronic exposure to mercury in the hat industry. Children who are exposed to it “may have long-term stigmata, including motor impairment, visual loss, hearing loss, developmental delay, and seizure disorders.”

      It’s too bad about your worker friends but, from the Billings Gazette:

      “After announcing its plan in 2012 to mothball the plant, PPL began working to relocate those workers to other power generating facilities. Many of the Corette employees with 40-plus years at the facility plan to retire.”

      Wouldn’t it be sweet if we didn’t have to worry about pollution or climate change, and we all had guaranteed jobs throughout out lives. Doesn’t work that way, though. It would be nice, however, if we got ahead of the curve, and trained and employed workers in the technologies of the future.

      • As I’ve stated before the mercury spewing is bullshit. I live down wind from the Corette plant. My family has ranched her since ’59. Over the course of those many years not only have we raised cattle and crops and gardens within the plume but I’ve also harvested deer, turkeys and upland birds on that acreage.

        You may think I’m mad but I’m not. My parents have lived well into their late 80’s and early nineties subsisting here. You can’t tell me our air is even close to the pollution spewed by car exhaust in large urban areas.

        • Mercury pollution is insidious, Swede. From the NDRC:

          “Mercury pollution—released from mining, coal combustion, power plants, and other industrial sources—can travel halfway around the world before it enters waterways and the fish we eat.”

          I won’t argue with you that your air might might be cleaner than “the pollution spewed by car exhaust in large urban areas.” That doesn’t make releasing mercury into the atmosphere right, does it?

  • Ok, Orwellian Luddite Daines. Good one.

    But didn’t Senator Jon Tester and “Orwellian Luddite Daines” just vote together for the very same Energy Bill? Listening to Senator Tester’s justification for voting with the “Orwellian Luddite Daines” and the GOP majority it seems like Senator Tester expects us to believe that the GOP-controlled Congress (easily the most anti-environmental Congress in the history of this country) suddenly and miraculously passed a great Energy Bill…despite being in bed with King Coal…despite being funded by Oil and Gas… despite being climate-change deniers. Yeah, right.

    Of course the Montana Wilderness Association and some other Montana ‘sportsmen’s’ groups just heaped huge praises on Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Rep Zinke for their Energy Bill vote because one part of the Energy Bill permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ok, great, but what else did the GOP’s Energy Bill do?

    Well, according to the League of Conservation Voters VP for Government Affairs Sara Chieffo, the Energy Bill “contains far too many damaging, anti-environmental provisions, such as exemptions from EPA’s clean air protections, weakened environmental review, and increased export and development of fossil fuels.”

    Weird that Senator Tester or the Montana Wilderness Association didn’t let Montanans know about those little facts, eh?

    • I wasn’t writing about the energy bill, Matthew, but about Daines’ relentless promotion of coal in energy production. Was I thrilled with the energy bill? Hell no. It’s too bad the Land and Water Conservation Fund was rolled up in it. That made the bill an obligatory ‘yes’ vote for the Montana Congressional delegation.
      The fact the bill passed 85-12, with the dissenting votes coming from conservative Republicans (and Rand Paul) tells me it could have been worse. But you know what they say about laws and sausages …

      • Well, you wrote about energy, climate change, coal, etc…so I figured the fact that just a few days Congress passed (with Senator Tester’s and Senator Daines’ support) the first Energy Bill in almost 10 years there was a pretty solid connection to be made. Especially considering that LCV believes the Energy Bill “contains far too many damaging, anti-environmental provisions, such as exemptions from EPA’s clean air protections, weakened environmental review, and increased export and development of fossil fuels.”

      • Also, RE: “Daines’ relentless promotion of coal in energy production”

        Remember the ‘historic’ riders that Senator Tester and Senator Daines attached to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act in December 2014? I wrote about it here:

        Read the snips below to see exactly how Senator Daines AND Senator Tester worked together behind closed doors, with zero public notice and with zero opportunity for public comment, to not only “relentless promote coal” but also offer up some previously protected public land Wilderness Study Areas to the Oil and Gas industry for future fracking.

        “As the Montana Environmental Information Center points out in this blog post ( Senator Tester and Rep Daines’ last minute change to the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (RMFHA) now includes the release of  two Wilderness Study Areas near Otter Creek, which is nearly 500 miles away from the Rocky Mountain Front.  Plus they snuck into the RMFHA (again with no public input or process) a provision that will likely release another 14,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas in eastern Montana near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas development. These Wilderness Study Areas are about 350 miles from the Rocky Mountain Front.

        Again, there were zero public meetings about this in Montana and Daines and Tester offered the public zero notice or opportunity to comment about their intent to release these public lands Wilderness Study Areas from their current protection. And clearly, Wilderness Study Areas 350 and 500 miles away from the Rocky Mountain Front have very little to do with a Rocky Mountain Front bill, other than Sen Tester and Rep Daines secretively used it as means to release eastern Montana Wilderness Study Areas for more development.

        Also, according to MEIC, part of the public lands rider means that “Great Northern Properties gets its grubby hands on 112 MILLION TONS OF COAL adjacent to the Signal Peak mine. Great Northern has been wanting this coal for years as it knows developing the coal rights on Northern Cheyenne land would be difficult, if not impossible, to develop. The coal on the Northern Cheyenne reservation was omitted from the expansion of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 1900. Now the Signal Peak coal mine that sends most of its coal overseas to Asian markets can further expand, continue to pollute water quality in the area, cause subsidence of surface owners property, and be responsible for hundreds of millions of additional tons of climate changing carbon dioxide pollution. Wilderness is not immune to the effects of climate change so should we sacrifice the climate for wilderness designation?”

        MEIC has stated that, for reference, 112 million tons of coal is approximately 3 years worth of coal production by every single coal mine in Montana, one of America’s top producing coal states. MEIC has also figured out that all that additional coal just given away by Senator Tester and Senator Daines with zero public input or notice during secret “horse-trading” meetings in Washington DC would result in an extra 224 MILLON TONS OF CARBON POLLUTION.”

        • So, Matthew, I shouldn’t be writing negative pieces on Daines unless I take swipes at Tester as well? I think you’ve got the Tester takedowns covered but thanks for the content suggestions.

          • Hi Pete. You are putting words in my mouth. I’m not making content suggestions. I’m simply providing some important context and substance in the comments section. Hope it’s OK if I use the comments section for that purpose. Also, highlighting the facts about Senator Tester’s votes and actions is far from a ‘takedown.’ Thanks.

  • This comment is a repeat of one I sent earlier. It was either deleted or captured in the spam filter.

    BARTON: In your testimony you say that these standards would save 17,000 lives, in terms of premature deaths a year I think, is that not correct?
    WALKE: That’s taken from EPA’s projection that up to 17,000 lives —
    BARTON: Let’s stipulate that it’s a number that you got from somewhere else.
    WALKE: Yes sir.
    BARTON: I’m going to ask every private sector individual here. I’ll start with Mr. Fannon. How many cases in your company were there last year of mercury poisoning reported?
    FANNON: None that I know of.
    BARTON: Does anybody know of mercury poisoning because of emissions from any of your plants? Do you know how many there were in the country last year? Zero. Zero. How about SO2? Any of you have any history in your plants of SO2 poisoning? Now, we cut SO2 emissions by 50 percent in the last decade, and this, if implemented cuts it another 50 percent, but takes it from 4 million tons a year annually to two million. Now, Mr. Walke, it’s not your statistic but it’s reported all the time! There is absolutely nothing to back it up!
    WALKE: Congressman Barton, with all due respect —
    BARTON: Nothing!
    WALKE: — that’s not correct.
    BARTON: Do you know how many — I’ll ask you. How many pounds of mercury are emitted from an average 500-MW coal-fired power plant a year?
    WALKE: Congressman Barton, those deaths —
    BARTON: Do you know the number?
    WALKE: — are attributed to deadly soot pollution —
    BARTON: Do you know the number?
    WALKE: — particulate matter, not mercury. So I want to be clear the basis of my claim. It’s particulate matter that kills people. EPA is not claiming mercury deaths.
    BARTON: All right, now let’s see that backed up.
    WALKE: I’d be happy to and it’s a great thing for this committee to have a hearing on with the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA.
    BARTON: The average 500-MW coal-fired power plant produced three pounds of mercury a year. Three pounds. According to Mr. Walke’s testimony these standards reduce this by 91 percent. Well that’s great! So you go from three pounds per plant to three tenths of a pound per plant. But that’s per year! Now, to actually cause poisoning or a premature death you have to get a large concentration of mercury into the body. I’m not a medical doctor, but my hypothesis is that’s not going to happen! You’re not going to get enough mercury exposure or SO2 exposure or even particulate matter exposure! I think the EPA numbers are pulled out of the thin air! And I’m going to send a document to the EPA, let’s back them up!
    Because the entire premise for going forward with these standards is you get such a tremendous ratio of benefits to costs because they claim according to Mr. Walke’s testimony, he’s an honest man, and he got it from somewhere, is $140 billion annually! Well, if you don’t really have the benefit, because you’re not having the medical negative but you really have the costs — and if you don’t think the costs are real, just look how many factories are closing and going to Mexico and China, look at the population of Mr. Dingell’s home city, Detroit, MI, it’s fallen by 40 percent I think in the last twenty years, if you don’t think those are real — so, if we’re going to have a real debate about these standards, Mr. Chairman, we need to start getting some real numbers from the EPA and getting the EPA up here, if it takes Mr. Rush’s help and Mr. Dingell’s and Mr. Waxman’s, if the benefits are not real and the costs are real, we’re absolutely wrong to force those standards!

  • I’m certainly not opposed to you pointing out the voting records of Montana’s Congressional delegation in the comments at this site. I tend to focus on the abysmal Republican environmental policies although I will, occasionally, take a Democrat to task. I know there’s some bad blood between you and Tester over the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act but I still believe Tester can be reasoned with. I noticed he opposed Zinke’s Resilient Federal Forests Act, so that’s a start.
    We in Missoula sometimes forget that we’re a city in Montana, and Montana is a purple state leaning red. The environmental policy changes we’d like to see will come about incrementally and subtly, and need to be approached in a way that Montanans see as beneficial to them (the initiatives banning cyanide gold mining and barring nuclear facilities in the state come to mind). I have no problem with you pushing the envelope — it’s needed — but I try to take a more pragmatic approach.
    There are sites — both on the right and left — that bash Obama, Tester, Bullock, et al., on a regular basis. We here at ID try to concentrate on the many archaic positions advanced by the GOP. The policy differences between the two parties, in many cases, can be stark.

    • “I noticed he opposed Zinke’s Resilient Federal Forests Act, so that’s a start.”

      Hi Pete,

      Yes, last year Senator Tester did oppose Zinke and Daines bad ‘Resilient Federal Forests Act.’

      However, also last year, in December, Senator Tester joined with Sen Daines and supported a National Forest logging rider sponsored by Rep Zinke. That public lands logging rider would have limited environmental analysis and ‘categorically excluded’ National Forest timber sales up to 3,000 acres (4.68 square miles) from the requirements of NEPA.

      Ironically, it was Zinke’s logging rider, supported by Tester and Daines, that sunk the chances to pass a federal wildfire funding fix. See here for more details on that:

      Ironically, just a few hours ago the radical ‘environmental extremists’ at the American Bird Conservancy sent out the following action alert to help stop the NEXT National Forest logging rider because it sure looks like Senator Tester is working the back rooms of Congress to get his (and Zinke and Daines’) logging rider attached to the wildfire funding fix legislation this session of Congress too.

      For those reading this blog that care about the science-based management of America’s public lands and your right as an American to fully participate in that process, I’d encourage you to take action and write not only Senator Tester, but the other senators listed below. Thanks.


      Help Stop the Next Logging Rider
      Dear Friends,
      We can soon expect fire funding legislation led by Senator Ron Wyden to reappear in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Tom Udall opposed the fire funding deal last December due to anti-environmental riders and lack of reform measures for fire suppression and out-of-control spending. 

      These Senators are now under intense pressure from other western Democrats and the Obama administration to support a deal, even if it includes environmental rollbacks.
      The administration and Sen. Wyden claimed the riders were the price for the fire funding deal due to House Republicans, but I have since learned the administration and some western Democrats are now “comfortable” with new expedited logging procedures by weakening NEPA and the ESA.  
      Please contact following Senate offices and urge him/her to oppose any forestry provisions that rollbacks or weakens NEPA or the ESA.

      Sen. Ron Wyden 202 224 5244
      Sen. Jeff Merkley  202 224 3753 
      Sen. Maria Cantwell 202 224 3441
      Sen. Patty Murray 202 224 2621 
      Sen. Barbara Boxer 202 224 3553 
      Sen. Diane Feinstein 202 224 3841 
      Sen. Jon Tester 202 224 2644 dylan_laslovich @
      Sen. Harry Reid 202 224 3542 
      Sen. Michael Bennet 202 224 5852 
      Sen. Tom Udall 202 224 6621 
      Sen. Martin Heinrich 202 224 5521 

      Some forest policy concerns to relay:
      1.     The growing negative impact of the 2014 Farm Bill logging rider which is being used to eliminate meaningful public involvement and for post-fire logging.

      2.     The imbalance in the Forest Service budget favoring logging over recreation and wildlife conservation.

      3.     The 40% growth in the federal timber program under the Obama administration from 2.3 billion to 3.2 billion board feet.

      4.     A BLM proposal to weaken President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan to increase logging 37% above current targets, and weakening wildlife protections.

      5.     The Westside project which proposes to log in old growth and geologic reserves putting listed fish and Spotted Owls at grave risk, and the

      6.     Title II logging rider which would have further eroded public involvement in federal forest management. 
      Thanks for all your efforts!
      Steve Holmer
      Senior Policy Advisor
      [email protected]

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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.

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