Montana Democrats And Climate Change

by lizard

I’m still a mostly ignorant newbie when it comes to understanding Montana politics, especially Montana Democrats. I have no clue what really goes on in Helena, and what little I know (outside of what traditional media reports) comes from a handful of blogs, so there’s that.

Take, for example, a recent post from Montana Cowgirl, calling out Max Baucus for taking $40,000 dollars from the Koch Brothers.

This is just a personal observation, but it seems to me that ever since signaling back in April he’d like 6 more years of corporate suckling, the knives have really come out against Max. I guess maybe some have deemed it time to take this cash cow to slaughter, hand out a few steaks, and wait for the next side of beef to stride forth (wearing a bolo tie?).

According to Cowgirl, Koch money is bad because:

The Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to persuade the American public that climate change is a hoax. Generally, they fund much of the racist and inciteful enterprise known as the Tea Party, from grassroots (or astroturf) organizing to TV ads. They also bankroll anti-union candidates in dozens of states, including major support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The attempt by the Koch brothers to financially support climate change deniers is well known, and it does cast a nasty shadow on the corporate suckler, Max Baucus.

What bothers me is the political context in which this is being pointed out. There’s a political scorecard being kept here, and climate change is just a way to score some points, this time against a “Democrat” who has fallen out of favor.

If climate change was to be taken seriously by this political blogger who likes to moo for Democrats, then other positions taken by Democrats should be scrutinized, like Tester’s support of the Keystone pipeline that will transport tar sands crude across America. When Obama postponed construction of the pipeline for purely political reasons, Tester had this to say:

“I am disappointed in the President’s decision. Just as I have supported Montana’s renewable energy jobs, I have long supported responsibly building this pipeline with the highest safety standards and with respect for private property rights. Oil, coal, natural gas, wind, geothermal and biofuels all provide good jobs in Montana. I will continue to champion Montana’s role in securing America’s energy future.”

Good jobs and securing America’s energy future are nice sounding talking points, but the Keystone pipeline project won’t produce either. Of course pointing that out wouldn’t help Jon get reelected.

Then there’s our Governor, the clean coal cowboy. In an article posted earlier this month at Counterpunch, Joshua Frank put it like this:

There’s a coal battle brewing in the great state of Montana and front and center in the fiasco is Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a good old-boy with an affinity for fossil fuels.

The latest trouble with Gov. Schweitzer dates back in 2009 when he and other members of the State Land Board, all Democrats, voted 4 to 1 to open up the rich coal tract of Otter Creek, an approximately 10,000-acre checkerboard of public lands, to development in Montana’s region of the Powder River Basin. An estimated 572 million tons was auctioned off to Arch Coal despite its unpopularity. Currently the lease approved by the Land Board is open for public comment, but opponents fear the Democrats residing on the panel won’t listen to their concerns.

“The main beneficiaries of leasing Otter Creek coal won’t be coal miners or schools or the Northern Cheyenne or the residents of Powder River County,” wrote local residents Bill and Judy Musgrave in the Billings Gazette leading up to the Land Board vote. “It will be coal speculators and the proposed Tongue River Railroad.”

At the beginning of August the Land Board decided to delay its public hearings in response to a weeklong protest spearheaded by Rising Tide North America. They appeared to be frightened of the spectacle that would ensue. Even with the rescheduled public hearing, opponents of coal exports and the Otter Creek mine are still planning a sit-in in Helena beginning on August 13. The non-violent civil disobedience will take place between the offices of Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, both of whom are Land Board members.

It’s protests like these that Montana ought to get used to as long as the state continues to extract its vast coal deposits.

Max’s dirty Koch money is certainly worthy of criticism, but for those concerned we’re quickly moving beyond the point of no return with climate change, the positions of many Montana Democrats should be looked at critically as well.


  1. BlackBart

    I was blindly opposed to Montana coal mines until I went out and looked at one. The operators bitch and complain about all the federal paperwork, but they actually put the landscape back pretty much how they found it, and the coal they mine is low-sulfur.
    Compare that to Appalachian coal which is high-sulfur and where operators chop off mountain tops and dump the debris in the valleys, ruining water supplies for the indefinite future.
    Short-term competition from natural gas and long-term renewable investments are reducing the country’s 50-percent reliance on coal for electricity generation, but for at least a few decades we’ll need some coal and I’d rather it be Montana coal.
    Appalachia has been trapped in poverty for a century because of uncontrolled wealth (and coal) extraction.
    The history lesson that was learned in Montana has been to tax some of that wealth and invest it for the future while requiring the miners clean up after themselves. (The exception being open pit metal mines, but even there steps are taken to reduce long-term water pollution.)

    • JC

      BB, one reason folks are against the new round of coal leases is that most of the coal is going to be exported to China. And they’ll build us cheap products (with the electricity they generate) that we’ll buy, and included in the deal is a whole lot of pollution drifting to the east to pollute our lakes and rivers and air. And all of the CO2 that is released affects us all.

      So don’t look at these coal leases as doing anything for American energy security. It’s nothing more than another bad deal for the environment, and a few coal speculators will get incredibly rich.

  2. Good that you got this out of your system, liz. Again: Montana ain’t Oregon.

    hope you get some comments for your effort.

  3. Big Johansson

    Liz takes the Montana Pulitzer.

  4. the old goat

    You know you missed a link at the beginning of the chain. The coal, that China will burn, that the railroads will haul, that Arch will mine, that the all-democrat land board voted to sell, came from the federal government as a payoff for Bill Clinton confiscating the gold mine in Park County next to yellowstone park. Three billion dollars that gold would bring, if mined, and it would not be hauled on rail or released into the air. There’s the truth and consequence.

  5. steve kelly

    In 1975 the coal severance tax, based on a percentage of the price of the coal at the mine, was 30% for subbituminous and 20% for lignite.

    The neoliberal majority in the 1987 Legislature began to reduce the coal tax in 5% annual increments if a target tonnage floor of 32.2 million tons was met. The target was met, lowering the tax to 25% in 1988. Lowered to 20% in 1990, and to 15% in 1991. I believe it remains at 15%.

    That’s not going to turn this banana republic around anytime soon, or anytime for that matter.

    The State of Montana provided for 69% of the educational and general funds budget in 1990. Now it supports 36% of the general fund or 17% of the university’s operating budget. Tuition, fees and research has been partially making up for the coal-tax rollback.

  6. The first thing you need to understand about the Montana dems is that they do not have the political backbone to toss out their DINOS.

    You also need to understand that most of them are not liberal ideologues and will do what it takes to keep their positions.

    • Steve W

      haha ha You Montana so-called Republicans nominated Mitt Romney. Mitt invented Obama care.

      ha ha you are so confused.

      Mitt. He’s a joke alright, and he’s your joke. He he he he.

      Is that an example of your backbone????? ha ha ha

    • JC

      Um, montana dems = DINOS.

  7. Well Steve W. – if you knew anything at all about Montana Politics, the GOP has had no problems keeping RINOS in line, or tossing them.

    (BTW – Romney/Ryan will carryMontana by double digits – in ’08 The Great Leader came here no less than 5 times, McCain didn’t come here at all, and Obama was shown the door by the voters)

  8. Steve W

    I have no doubt that Romney will appeal to the leftist big government Republicans of Montana, such as yourself, Eric.

    Your slogan can be:

    ” Montana For Mitt! He invented Obama Care before Obama!”


    As a liberal, I’m voting for Jill Stien. (Green) I’m not going to vote for either of the two guys who want to further Romney Care.

    I just don’t believe that forcing people to buy a product from a private company is the American way and I won’t vote for it.

    You can though, Eric. If that’s what you endorse then vote for it. (Romney)

    If i were a conservative I’d vote for the more honest and consistent Gary Johnson (Libertarian) or Virgil Goode. (Constitutionalists) Not for a big government opportunist chameleon like Romney.

    I agree with you that Obama will not win Montana, and have said so repeatedly. I disagree with you that Romney is conservative because his short public record shows quite clearly that he isn’t. If Romney wins the country (which i doubt he will) I would expect an administration to the left of georgie bush Jr. and almost identical to Obama on most of the bigger issues.

  9. Heres My Take on this, and your Right Lizard, seems Montana Democrats want it both ways.

    1. BB, your wrong about the coal coming out of Montana soil. Bituminous and Sub-bituminous coal are harder to burn,because they carry less energy content.

    They might be a little lower in sulfur then Anthracite found in Virginia and Tennessee, but they come with a slew of other nasty chemicals, and basically have to be coked to use in industry; Leeching horrible amounts of Arsenic and other chemical compounds in our air and water.
    It is not a win for this country either as we are selling our energy to other countries like china, when we should be leaving something in the ground for the states for that rainy day in the future.

    Wind is free, and so is the sun. and this state has high indexes for both of those free, infinite products that will never run out.

    So when someone tells me, we need to dig crap out of the ground, in a state that is exporting far more then we even use, I gotta agree that it is just the greed of some companies going after a buck.

    2. Even though Baucus looks like he went sideways on us with Koch, I gotta ask why the same people who don’t like him, vote for him time and time again. Of all the Money he has taken from interest groups, in all the years he has been in office. $40,000 is just a pint size drop in the bucket regarding the Koch brothers.

    Though I like Cowgirl blog, they have always been anti Baucus… just Saying. He has obviously pissed certain Liberal Dems off, for a guy who votes 90 % with his party!

    If he was so anti wilderness why has he been trying to get his Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act to the floor for years?

    So ya Lizard I get kinda confused by my Party as well.

    I’d rather we didn’t even scratch the surface of the dirt around us, when we could be innovators in sun and wind energy, with jobs we know wont get out sourced and products that wont dissapear… but my party has been found playing all over the field for the last 30 years while still seemingly pushing forward the rights of others. Big tents full of people usually mean more pushing and shoving, and we have alot of interests doing that right now!

    Max the man has been pro middle class people rights for years. and with the onslaught of Tea Party treason going on against the rights of others…. Baucus is one of those guys who we would be hard placed to replace.

    Anyway just some thoughts on this. I am sure someone out their won’t like my opinion. but hey can’t please some people all of the time.

  10. Matthew Koehler

    FYI: Senator Tester signs the Koch Coal Bus

    SNIP: Sen. Tester encouraged American Energy Alliance to “keep up the great work.” Tester’s name is now added alongside other leaders, including Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, Rep. Heather Wilson, Republican candidate for the seat of retiring New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, Montana State Senator Jason Priest, and New Mexico State Senator Gay Kernan.

    And this:

    “According to the website Politico, the American Energy Alliance is funded partially by the Koch brothers, who have funded a number of conservative causes. Tester said he signed the bus because he supports an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, but was unaware of the bus’ ties to the Koch brothers.”

  11. Matthew Koehler

    Sort of hard to even make this stuff up…..Here’s another snip from the article, where the American Energy Alliance brags about their 6 miles to the gallon bus tour:

    “Next week, as we take the [Koch Funded] American Products and Power bus tour to Tampa for the Republican National Convention, I am proud that Jon Tester’s name will remain prominently displayed on our 45 foot, 51,000lb, 6mpg diesel-running bus.”

    – Benjamin Cole, American Energy Alliance, Director of Communications

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