Montana Senate Candidates Battle Over Carbon Tax Proposal
Two Montana senate candidates squared off over a carbon tax this week as western energy issues are getting more attention on the national campaign trail. Montana Senator Steve Daines (R) began by criticizing his opponent, sitting Governor Steve Bullock (D), in a letter sent Wednesday over a carbon pricing scheme proposed by the Montana Climate Solutions Council.
“Carbon pricing proposals undermine the free-market principles our nation was built upon, expand the reach of the federal government into Montanans’ daily lives, and disproportionately affect low-income households and energy-dependent, rural economies,” Daines wrote. “This reckless proposal is a gut punch to the over 35,000 oil, gas, and coal jobs in Montana, not to mention the thousands of manufacturing and transportations jobs that would also vanish under such policy.”
Bullock responded with a letter defending the council and calling Daines’s letter “a reprehensible display of politics” that was “indicative of [Daines’] limited capacity to tackle a challenging issue.”
The exchange comes as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has backed away from his previous support for a climate tax. Biden’s June 2019 climate plan called on Congress to create an “enforcement mechanism” to cut carbon emissions, something the campaign confirmed referred to a carbon tax. But the plan the Biden campaign released in July 2020, a document intended to complement the earlier material, leaves out that language. It includes a clean-energy standard instead.
Fights over energy policies have flared up in recent years, highlighted by the Trump administration’s decision to move the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters to Colorado, Biden’s pick of fracking opponent Sen. Kamala Harris (D, Calif.) to be his vice presidential nominee, and a major conversation package that passed earlier in the summer.
Western Republicans were quick to criticize Harris’s energy policies after the announcement. In Montana, Daines tied Harris to his opponent Bullock, saying that the two would be “be leading the charge for a radical, job-killing agenda” that would hurt western energy production.
Earlier in the summer, the two exchanged barbs over the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation that dedications a portion of the royalties and fees garnered by mineral development on public lands to funding National Parks maintenance and conservation efforts.
Passage of the act was a major legislative victory for Daines, who had long championed the project. Bullock, however, criticized Daines for taking too long to get the bill to the president’s desk.
“Call me crazy, but I believe it shouldn’t take Congress this long to follow through on its commitments to the American people,” Bullock said in a statement. “Our political system has been trapped in gridlock caused by party leaders and special interest. While I applaud Steve Daines’ efforts in helping get this across the finish line, Montanans deserve leadership that stands up for public lands and the best interests of the people of our state every day—not just in election years.”