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Montana Energy Review - Q&A With: Congressman Steve Daines

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1. What is your energy agenda for your first term in Congress? What are your top three priorities for the energy industry?

I support an all-of-the-above approach to securing American energy independence that includes alternative sources of energy -- hydropower, wind, and solar -- along with coal, oil, natural gas and biomass. Montana will continue to lead the way, through the pending construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, promoting exploration and sustained development of the Bakken oil shale, continuing to lead in domestic coal production, and expanding our renewable energy production. Montana is setting an example of how domestic energy development can be done in a responsible manner to reduce our dependence on foreign energy while sustaining our resources for generations to come.

2. As a freshman Congressman, getting attention of House Leadership can be a challenge. But as Montana's only Congressman, you are the lone voice for more than a million people in the House of Representatives. What steps are you taking to make sure Montana issues get the attention they deserve?

I represent more people than any other member of Congress, and it's a responsibility I take seriously. My number one priority is to put Montana first. A key part of that is working with Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester to do what's best for the people of Montana. We work together, because at the end of the day, it's not the "R" or the "D" behind our names that matter -- it's the MT. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I've taken on issues of critical importance to Montana -- from opening up hydropower development in Montana's irrigation canals to finding solutions that revitalize our state's timber industry and combatting duplicative federal government energy regulations like the proposed hydraulic fracturing rule. The House recognizes the role that the responsible development of natural resources plays in growing our economy.

3. How will Montana's energy industry be impacted by the evolving battles over sequestration, budget cuts, debt reduction, and federal spending?

Montana's energy industry holds tremendous potential for creating good-paying jobs, growing our state's economy, and generating millions of dollars in revenue for the U.S. Treasury. As we work to get our country back on track, we must take necessary steps to rein in Washington's spending and reduce our nation's debt. A key part of this is encouraging economic growth and removing the overreaching regulatory barriers that hold back job creation. Developing Montana energy and U.S. energy will not only provides jobs and financial security for families -- it will significantly grow our economy and the tax base. Montana's energy industry will continue to play a key role in getting our economy back on track, reduce our country's debt, and get Americans back to work.

4. Do you believe that reform of oil and gas permitting on federal lands is a) necessary and b) possible in the near-term?

Just as Montana holds rich oil and gas reserves throughout our state, much of those reserves exist beneath federal and tribal lands which encompass 30 percent of our state's landscape. From 2000 through 2008 there have been 101 wells per year averaged, started on Federal lands in Montana. In 2011 there were 23 Federal drilling permits issued. Last year the State of Montana issued 329 permits on private lands while only 29 Federal permits were issued. We cannot attract energy investment in our state while the federal government takes hundreds of days to process drilling permits and threatens to exasperate those delays with a pending duplicative rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and indian lands. The best and easiest way to help permitting on federal lands is for the Dept. of Interior to extend the comment period for this rule. A 30-day comment period for a rule that will affect oil and gas production on lands throughout our country is simply unacceptable. The comment periods for the Miles City, Billings, and Hi-Line Resource Management Plans must be extended as well. Additionally, in my capacity as a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, we continue to exercise our oversight authority over the federal permitting agencies for resource development. Keeping the Administration accountable to the American people and streamlining the process where possible will turn our oil and gas development on federal lands in the right direction.

5. How concerned are you about possible executive action on climate change, without Congressional approval? What can be done to ensure that major climate or energy initiatives from the Administration are considered through a transparent process?

I am very concerned about an executive order on climate change. Our Founding Fathers created our representative democracy to tackle issues like this by utilizing our full transparent legislative process. While Congress can override an executive order by a two-thirds majority vote, the Administration should not be abusing executive orders to create and enforce controversial policies without Congressional approval, especially when these policies would harm America's economy while having an insignificant or uncertain benefit to the environment. Regardless, I have remained a vocal advocate in opposing any climate change or carbon tax policy. This year I co-sponsored H.Con.Res 24, legislation expressing that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.

6. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the impacts of coal exports and the possible construction of export facilities on the West Coast. Montana has some of the largest coal reserves in the world and is well-positioned to serve that growing global demand. Do you think that Montana should be developing coal resources for export?

Just exporting one million short tons of coal produced in the U.S. in a year could create over one thousand good paying jobs. In 2011 in Montana alone, coal exporting created 500 direct jobs. Meanwhile, our country is running a $69 billion trade deficit compared to China in 2013 so far. While our goods like coal remain onshore and undeveloped, jobs are moving offshore to China, India, and others. It's important to Montana and our entire country to be able to export our Montana coal. Additionally, coal production provides critical funding for Montana schools, as much of our state's coal is located on school trust lands. Development of our coal reserves produces millions of dollars for Montana public education every year.

7. Do you believe that Montana's tribes have the flexibility and support from the federal government that they need in order to develop energy resources on tribal lands and bring economic growth to their people?

While Montana's tribes are making gains in developing their natural resources, barriers still remain. Most recently, the Dept. of Interior released a revised draft proposal for a new burdensome hydraulic fracturing rule that would apply to development on Indian lands. I oppose this rule and support H.R. 1548 the Native American Energy Act that would exclude tribal land from this rule unless the Dept. has expressed consent of the tribe. As a Member of the House Natural Resources Indian Affairs and Energy and Mineral Subcommittees, I will continue work to expand economic opportunities for tribes and all Montanans through the responsible development of our natural resources. A great example of how tribes can develop energy resources is found in the partnership between Cloud Peak Energy, Big Metal Company, and the Crow Tribe allowing for the development of coal reserves located within the borders of the Crow Reservation. I believe agreements such as these can help build a strong foundation for Native American communities to thrive in our state.

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