By a two to one margin, Montana voters oppose shutting down coal-fired power plants in Montana, according to polling conducted earlier this year and released by the Western Education Foundation for Resources (WEFR). The polling was conducted to assess voter attitudes on coal-fired electricity generation, President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions, and how that plan is projected to negatively affect jobs in Montana.
“We’re already starting to see the economic impacts resulting from federal regulations aimed at eliminating fossil fuel production in Montana, “ said Leo Berry, WEFR Chairman. “We’ve lost hundreds of jobs in our energy sector, the $300 million state surplus we had 18 months ago has vanished due to declining revenues, and this is all before the President’s plan has even begun to be implemented.” The U.S. Supreme Court has placed President’s Obama’s plan on hold.
WEFR’s polling found that a strong majority of Montanans opposed President Obama’s carbon regulations after learning about the impacts of the issue. Fifty-eight percent of Montana voters were opposed to the plan, and only 37% were favorable.
While respondents called lost Montana jobs as the number one concern with federal regulations, lost tax revenue was not far behind. A full 73% said they were very or fairly concerned about reductions in tax revenue to fund government programs. Respondents also expressed some concern about the potential for increased property taxes to offset lost energy tax revenue in coming years.
“Montanans need to come to terms that we’re all in for some hard times ahead if we lose the Colstrip generators,” said Jess LaBuff, Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local No. 11. “We’re going to see as much as half a billion less revenue going to state and local governments, a reduction of about $15 billion in our state economy and higher prices for electricity.”
“It’s imperative that we retain these good paying, middle income jobs in Montana,” LaBuff added. “Our boilermaker members earn on average approximately $85,000 per year. The loss of coal tax revenue hurts programs such as state parks, libraries and water development for communities around the state.”
Two-thirds of respondents support using federal tax credits to help pay to retrofit the Colstrip generators with Carbon Capture technology.

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