Bullock said coal is going to a be a significant part of Montana’s energy future going forward even though that future is uncertain for the coal market.
"But certainly I am committed, been committed, to making sure we’re turning over every rock."
He said that includes meeting with Asian markets and the owners of the Colstrip plants, pursuing carbon capture projects, and challenging the federal Clean Power Plan initiative that’s currently on hold.
Colstrip resident Terry Taylor wanted more. He said Colstrip is being hammered by the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Northern Plains Resource Council, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Taylor said coal has provided millions of dollars for the entire state to enjoy:
"And people act like it’s a no big deal. It is a big deal to all of us here. So I respect the office of Governor but we gotta fight. We gotta stand up and fight for what we believe in. We got a Governor Christie. You see them standing up and fighting for their state. We need you to get tough. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it."
After a brief back and forth with Bullock and another panel member, Taylor walked out. Two other members of the public, who did not give their names, picked up where Terry Taylor left off.
"We’re not feeling the love, you know what I’m saying.
He told Bullock he and his departments can do more to fight for Colstrip.
"And I think that’s what Terry was trying to get across to you. Stand up. Pound your fist once in a while and say we’ve had enough of this crap. Let’s stand up for our energy portfolio or whatever we need to do for the state of Montana. That’s what we’re asking from you."
Bullock thanked the man. He said he and others are taking action. He said he asked Washington Governor Jay Inslee earlier this year to veto legislation that would lead to the eventual end of buying coal-generated power. He added that’s why he’s holding this energy roundtable.
"Part of this discussion is to say, ‘What can you do?’ Because my perspective is, just standing up and yelling ain’t going to change the price of natural gas. It ain’t going to save the jobs. So it’s about figuring out what steps we can ultimately take to do so," Bullock said.
He said what’s happening more and more in the political system is yelling, screaming, and building fear. Bullock said he wants to sit down and find a solution.
"Stand up and roar a little bit, and in the meantime work. That’s what I do," said Republican State Senator Duane Ankney of Colstrip.
Ankney thinks Bullock, a Democrat, could do both.
"I think we need some passion out of Helena. I told the governor that, so I’m not blindsiding him with something. I went up after this and said, ‘listen to that young man back there. You need to stand up and roar a little bit, talk about coal and Colstrip."
In response, Bullock said he knows it’s an election year but he didn’t want to play political games and further incite fear.
"I don’t think that’s responsible. I get, I guess, the humbling opportunity to be governor and do what I can to make sure that Colstrip, as a plant, stays viable, and this community stays viable as is other communities across the state."
Bullock faces token opposition on the June primary ballot, which he has ignored. The same is true for Republican Greg Gianforte of Bozeman. Gianforte has criticized Bullock over the issue of coal and Colstrip. Bullock plans to release his plan on Montana’s energy future later this month.