Senate Hopeful Wants EPA Administrator to Visit Montana Coal Town

Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) invites — no, Daines demands — Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency visit the town of Colstrip, Mont., to see for herself the impact of her agency’s Clean Power Plan on that community.

So far, he has not received her RSVP.

This time next year, he could have a lot more pull with the EPA. Daines could be forgiven if he is doing some early packing. He can’t be too worried about winning the November Senate election.

Rasmussen Reports gives him an 18-point lead among Montana voters in his bid to replace Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.). Even Democrat-leaning CEA/Hickman Analytics has him up by 12 points.

But Daines is very concerned about the people back in Montana, especially the people who call Colstrip home. Daines thinks the very existence of their community is endangered by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan proposal.

The EPA wants to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels. It would allow a state-by-state plan to reach that goal, but Daines said it would diminish coal’s role in energy production, force higher energy costs upon American families and cost good-paying Montana jobs.

“Hundreds of hard-working Montanans depend on jobs in Colstrip’s coal-fired power plants and its coal mines to provide for their families,” Daines said on the House floor.

Daines said visiting the people of Colstrip is the very least McCarthy could do after The Hill reported she met with “a group of 24 liberal senators” to push the EPA plan.

Colstrip is close to being a “company town,” and Western Energy Co. is the company. Western has four power plants in Colstrip, a town with a median household income of close to $75,000 thanks to Western.

It is not like the people of Colstrip are awash in an ocean of coal money. But it is close.

And Montana benefits as well. Western Energy paid the state $28 million in taxes in 2012 on its Rosebud Mine, according to The Billings Gazette.

Montana’s coal industry supports more than 5,000 jobs in the state, according to Daines’ office. The state contains more coal reserves than any other state and ranks sixth overall in coal production nationwide.

Montana gets more than half its power from coal, keeping electricity prices low. The average retail price in Montana is currently 8.42 cents per kilowatt hour, among the lowest in the nation.

Coal provides more than $100 million in tax revenue to the state of Montana, which funds schools, infrastructure, libraries and parks.

However, as important as coal is to the economies of Montana and Colstrip, McCarthy has yet to send her RSVP, accepting or declining Daines’ invitation.

“We have not yet received a response from Administrator McCarthy, but families in Colstrip have sent a strong message that the EPA’s job-killing regulations and the Obama Administration’s war on coal are a direct threat to the thousands of Montana families who rely on coal for their livelihoods and for a source of affordable energy,” said Daines’ communications director Alee Lockman.