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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Bullock Talks Carbon Use, Carbon Capture During Facebook Town Hall

Avery Old Coyote (left) shares his opinion on the Keystone XL oil pipeline with Gov. Steve Bullock (right) on Monday, July 1, in Helena.
Avery Old Coyote (left) shares his opinion on the Keystone XL oil pipeline with Gov. Steve Bullock (right) on Monday, July 1, in Helena.

Governor Steve Bullock says he could support the controversial Keystone XL pipeline “if it’s done right.” 

As a Democratic Governor of a red state Bullock often straddles issues that others in his party can take a clearer stance on, like the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline.

In an online town hall event where Bullock pledged making Montana’s electric grid carbon-neutral by 2035, Bullock got a question from Crow Tribal member Avery Old Coyote.

Old Coyote said, "My question is just a simple one, do you support the Keystone XL pipeline?”

Bullock said he’s worked with tribal members on the Fork Peck Reservation about the importance of protecting water sources near the proposed pipeline.

But Old Coyote wasn’t clear what that meant. He added, “So, no?”

“I said from the beginning, look, if it’s done right we can’t take it off the table,” Bullock said with a laugh. 

The Keystone XL Pipeline would run through eastern Montana.

All three members of the state’s U.S. Congressional Delegation support it as good for jobs and the local economy.

The Associated Press says only a few of the 25 Democrats who, like Bullock, are competing for their party’s nomination support Keystone XL, citing climate change impact and clean water concerns.

• • •

Governor Steve Bullock pledged to make Montana’s electric grid greenhouse gas neutral by 2035, signing an executive order to do so Monday.

Bullock, who is running for President, also joined Montana to the U.S. Climate Alliance, formed when President Trump withdrew the U-S from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Bullock said climate change is bringing droughts, longer wildfire seasons and “double the amount of reparatory related emergency room visits, and periodic waves of evacuations.”

Bullock signed the order while appearing on a Facebook live stream from Helena, filmed with a group of young people as a town hall style event.

It creates a Montana Climate Solutions Council, to strategize expanding renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions here. The council’s Climate Solutions Plan is due in January, with a final version expected following public comment a few months later.

Bullock’s order also expands on the goal for the electric grid to be greenhouse neutral by 2035, pushing for "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide at a date to be determined by the council."

The Montana Environmental Information Center’s Anne Hedges says Bullock’s call to action is late, but a good step representing a shift in Bullock’s stance on climate change.

“We just haven’t seen him tackle it," Hedges said. "And he’s been nervous about doing anything that would decrease our reliance on coal.”

Bullock’s six-page order does not mention coal directly. But it does direct the new council to look at carbon capture and storage at Montana’s coal-fired power plants.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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