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Gianforte Withdraws Montana From Multi-State Climate Coalition

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte asks a question during his annual fire briefing on June 9, 2021. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Amanda Kaster sits in the background.
Kevin Trevellyan
Yellowstone Public Radio
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte asks a question during his annual fire briefing on June 9, 2021. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Amanda Kaster sits in the background.

Gov. Greg Gianforte has withdrawn Montana from a coalition of two dozen states dedicated to fighting climate change. 

The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. To do that, member states strive to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 2050. Former Democratic governor Steve Bullock joined the alliance in 2019.

Evan Westrup of the U.S. Climate Alliance said Gov. Gianforte didn’t respond to the organization’s invitation to continue Montana’s membership. Members include nearby Western states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, and a handful of states led by Republican governors.

In an email, Westrup said, “While Montana is no longer a member, we continue to welcome a politically and regionally diverse group of governors to our coalition.”

In a statement, Brooke Stroyke, spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte, said the governor believes the solution to climate change is unleashing American innovation, not overbearing government mandates. She added that the Paris Agreement punishes the U.S., while letting countries like China off the hook. 

Stroyke didn’t respond to requests to clarify Gianforte’s climate goals, or what sort of innovation is necessary in Montana.

Amy Cilimburg, executive director of Climate Smart Missoula, said the state needs more than innovation. 

“The U.S. Climate Alliance was not some kind of a radical group, it was governors realizing that we’re stronger together, that energy transmission lines cross state boundaries, that watersheds cross state boundaries, that wildfire smoke crosses state boundaries, and we’re only gonna be resilient if we work together. And so we’re not at the table, and that is really frustrating,” Cilimburg says.

Cilimburg was part of a council under then-governor Bullock, which produced a climate solutions plan released in 2020 that set goals for the state. 

Mark Haggerty, who is now a Senior Fellow at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, was also a part of that group. 

“We stand a better chance of growing Montana’s economy when we are participating in broader markets and conversations that are happening,” Haggerty says. 

Haggerty said he hasn’t heard how the Gianforte administration intends to use the Climate Solutions Plan developed under Bullock, but he said the council put in a tremendous amount of work.

“We were understanding, supporting, and recognizing all of the different opportunities and challenges that Montana faces, and bridge that urban-rural divide, and that can help bridge the political divide and actually get stuff done,” Haggerty says.

A representative of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said the Gianforte administration hasn’t yet offered guidance on how to handle the Climate Solutions Plan.

Nick Mott is a reporter and podcast producer who focuses on wildlife, natural resources, and the environment. He was editor on the podcasts Shared State and Fireline, and producer on the podcasts Threshold and Richest Hill.
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