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Government & Politics

U.S. House Candidates Voice Support for Colstrip and Coal

Matt Volz
Associated Press

Montana’s U.S. House Candidates all voiced their support for the town of Colstrip and coal during their final debate last night in Great Falls.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our governor has turned coal into a four letter word,” said Libertarian candidate Rick Breckenridge. 

The comment elicited a few giggles from the standing room only audience. The surveyor from Proctor ignored them and said there’s a war on the residents of Colstrip. “Now those jobs, those lives, those livelihoods, he said.

“Instead we’ve taken and invested in wind energy at 20 bucks a megawatt for coal fired now we’re investing $200 a megawatt in wind,” Breckenridge said instead money should be invested in clean coal technologies. 

Breckenridge was recently tapped to replace Mike Fellows as the Libertarian candidate on the general election ballot. Fellows died in an automobile wreck late last month.

Juneau said the question about coal is fitting in the Electric City, the nickname for Great Falls. “There’s hydro. There’s wind here,” she said. “I can travel all across this state and there’s energy everywhere.”

She said coal isn’t going away as it’s still a big producer of electricity.

“But we do need to move forward and we need to figure out the way forward,” Juneau said. “But we need to work with those coal-reliant communities to find that pathway forward.”

She said coal is hurt by the low price of natural gas. The state school superintendent added climate change is real.

“I think actually Denise and I are pretty similar in what we said about coal energy,” said Congressman Ryan Zinke, R-MT. “It is ‘all of the above.’” (:07)

“All of the above” is a shorthand for using a mix of fossil fuels and alternative sources to meet the nation’s energy demands.

Zinke said coal is still a cheap fuel source. He said the problem is, “It’s dying a death of 1,000 cuts by over-regulation.”

“It’s difficult to move the product. There’s still markets overseas but we’ve lost the ability to ship it out. And shipping it out of Montana is important,” said Zinke.

Powder River Basin coal mines have been unsuccessful to get the permits to build export terminals along the pacific northwest coasts to ship coal to Asia.

The debate at Great Falls College-MSU was sponsored by the Montana Farmers Union and The Great Falls Tribune. It was the last House debate for the fall general election.  Absentee ballots will be mailed out beginning October 14, 2016.

Election day is November 8, 2016