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Coal, petroleum industry say Obama climate plan will hurt Montana

Montana Coal Council

Representatives from Montana’s coal and petroleum industries are blasting the new climate action plan announced by President Obama this week.

The plan aims to reduce power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, largely through reigning in coal-fired power plants. Obama is directing the Environmental Protection Agency to create the first ever federal limits on these emissions. The president wants to increase America’s reliance on natural gas and renewables and make trucks, homes and businesses more efficient.

The Montana Coal Council represents the state’s six major coal mines. Executive Director Bud Clinch said he really didn’t see anything too surprising in the Obama climate plan, and that the industry has been waiting for much of this to happen for about the last two years.

"I think it's something he's believed in from the beginning,” Clinch said. “It's just that the election is behind us now and any political risk to him is somewhat gone."

The new standards set by the Obama plan will make it very difficult for any new coal-fired power plants to be built nationwide. Clinch said it is still unclear what exactly the rules will mean for existing coal plants.

"If it raises the cost of electricity in his (Obama's) new plans, then it's going raise the cost of producing oil in Montana,” said Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association Dave Galt, “and it's gonna raise the cost of producing and making gasoline and diesel fuel in Montana and it's gonna be passed on to every consumer in this state. And I don't think people really realize that."

Galt especially faults the plan for Obama’s new directive on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which is seeking federal permission to cross from Canada into Montana and run down to the Gulf of Mexico. The president said the pipeline will only be approved if it does not increase greenhouse gasses. It's not clear if that means the pipeline won't be built.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” Galt said. “He’s just looking for an out to accommodate his environmental friends.”

He said those working on the Keystone project have done everything possible to minimize environmental impacts.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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