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Governor Bullock Announcement & Town Hall Transcript

July 5, 2019

 

Gov. Bullock (GB)

Valan Anthos (VA)

Avery Old Coyote (AOC)

Sula Duncan (SD) 

 

GB: Hey, welcome, and thanks to Sula, Avery, and Valan for joining me today here at the State Capitol. And thanks to all of you for joining us today – tuning in from across the state. Today, I’m going to be signing an Executive Order and what that will do is it’s going to convene a diverse group of Montanans to develop…(inaudible 0:22 to 0:29)…a plan to confront those challenges before us.

 

GB (Aside): Oh, are you losing it there or are you still okay on this side? (Pause) Are you getting it, Kiah? Even if it shows some strange things over here? I won’t worry about it as long as, as long as you can see it. Our screen is not quite showing quite like yours…

 

GB: But look, Montana – we’re outdoors folks. And we know also that climate change is already impacting our way of life and our economy. We’ve experienced persistent droughts, record wildfire season with double the amount of respiratory-related emergency room visits and periodic waves of evacuations, peak season closure of our rivers and streams to fishing due to high temperatures, and the realization that Glacier National Park – those glaciers are literally vanishing before our eyes. Our impacts are among the most pronounced in the entire country. Already, temperatures have risen by about 3 degrees in Montana since 1950 on average: increased about twice the amount of the nation as a whole. 

 

We’ve also been experiencing transitions in our economy and our energy sector that are happening within our state’s borders – around the nation and indeed, around the world. Our state’s engagements craft what are really home-grown solutions to prepare for climate impacts and respond to those shifting demands and needs of the global economy. It’s going to be necessary to continue our sustained economic growth and position us to continue to provide food, energy, products, technology, and one of a kind experience to the entire nation and the world. 

 

How we choose to respond to these changes and challenges offers a real pivotal opportunity to both safeguard our traditional strengths and diversify and grow new opportunities for our future. Thrilled to be joined in the room today and online – in partnership with Forward Montana Foundation. I know all of you appreciate the urgency of tackling this problem and changing our current trajectory. I’m excited to hear your thoughts and answer your questions on how we can move forward together to craft solutions for Montana. 

 

So the Executive Order that we’re signing today creates a council that is charged with developing recommendations to achieve four specific objectives. 

 

First, it charges the council with taking a hard look at both the challenges and the opportunities of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, including an interim goal creating carbon neutrality for our electrical sector by no later than 2035. And then have the council really dig in to where we can be as a state, how long it will take to set a date for net-zero emissions for our state as a whole .This work will help all of us and our state better understand the possible changes we need to make to prepare for the future and help us also understand how we can continue to contribute to regional market opportunities. 

 

Second, it’s going to task the council with working across my Cabinet and state agencies to integrate climate change information and projections in our planning and in our support for local and tribal governments as they aim to take measures to prepare for impacts. Third, the council’s tasked with ensuring that we provide locally relevant climate information and decision support: providing timely science projections, assessments, and tools to help businesses, farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and communities – both inform their management and develop strategies to build resilience for their operations. 

 

Finally, the council’s going to coordinate with the University system to explore new technologies and foster climate solutions. We’ll work to build a portfolio of activities to support research, development, commercialization, and workforce needs to ensure we continue to generate quality jobs and competitive advantage through our response. We’ll work on being a leader on innovative energy solutions such as battery storage and renewable technology. We’ll also look at other sectors such as the adoption of technology to agriculture that boost production…(inaudible 5:55)…and lower greenhouse gas impacts – helping our farmers to continue to feed the world. 

 

It’s an ambitious and comprehensive agenda but I have great confidence we can build those durable results. We’re not starting from scratch and we have great progress to build from. During even my six year tenure, we’ve doubled our wind capacity, (inaudible 6:19) lending our wind to West Coast markets. We’ve quadrupled solar capacity in utility scales and in homes and businesses and with rural cooperatives. We pioneered place-based solutions to drought resilience and wildfire-adapted communities that are models across the nation. Our University system – it’s authored an initial Montana climate assessment that offers a stakeholder-driven and science-informed perspectives on the coming changes and how we need to respond. And cities, towns, and tribal nations have already been taking steps to advance climate action plans unique to their needs.

 

Today, I’m also committing to join the US Climate Alliance; making Montana the 25th state to do so and offering us an opportunity to learn from others as they craft their own policy efforts. Now I’m not so naive to think that the challenges we’ll face…but like all difficult issues that we tackle here in Montana, I know that when we come together as Montanans..(inaudible, 7:27)…forward, certainly by getting together, rolling up our sleeves, folks know the values that we share in common. Our state needs – and indeed our entire nation needs – Montana-focused solutions now than ever. 

 

So I’ll sign the Executive Order now then I’ll open it up to my colleagues to introduce themselves to start that conversation. For those following online, please submit your comments and questions – we’ll run through those here and use them to help guide our conversation as well. 

 

(Signs Executive Order) Alright, I’ll turn it over to you three…

Valan Anthos (VA): So, my name’s Valan. I use he/ him or they/them pronouns and I am an activist from Missoula, Montana.

 

Avery Old Coyote (AOC): (Speaking in Salish & Crow)…Hello! My name is Avery Old Coyote. I’m from St. Ignatius, Montana. I introduced myself in my heritage languages. First, in Salish, I said ‘Good morning, everyone, my name is Cold Water’ and in the Crow language, I said ‘How are you? My name is Medicine Pipe.’ And yeah, I’m from St. Ignatius, Montana and I’m enrolled Crow but I’m also Salish. 

 

Sula Duncan (SD): Hi, I’m Sula Duncan and I’m a junior at Park High and I’m just excited to be here because I’m passionate about climate change. 

 

GB: Great, well it’s wonderful to have you here. Hopefully I’ll ask you all some questions along the way as well but any questions you may have…

 

VA: Yeah, and I think I was going to start off with a question for you, Senator Bullock…

 

GB: Governor, thanks. 

 

VA: Governor, sorry! (Laughs) But yes, so, Montana is actually number 5th in the nation in terms of wind capacity for wind generation. Iowa is about number 10th in the nation. Iowa’s already at almost 40% wind energy in terms of their state’s profile. We’ve made some amazing progress but still, wind energy is a relatively small share of our electricity generation when it could be up to 40% or 50%. I was wondering what your thoughts were on increasing that wind capacity even more and what the barriers are to doing that. 

 

GB: Yeah, and one of the challenges has been, like, look – we’ve always been a net exporter of energy, right? We’re producing more than we actually create and we also have what some other states don’t have, is all the hydro opportunities, but you look at it and one of the most antiquated pieces of machinery that we’ve ever had, it’s called the electrical grid, right? We’ve never really invested in it in ways that we really should. I think, though, that there are some real possibilities. One thing that – and this was about a year ago – that we convened, put a renewable development action plan (inaudible, 10:54) power to the West to really look at what are the opportunities to grow wind capacity, not just in our state but throughout the Western region, and really took some firm steps around that table to everybody from conservationists to utilities to the scientists to say, how do you get there? We also have some great opportunities with wind because it blows countervailing to what happens like in Oregon through the Columbia Gorge. We’re already seeing more interest than what we’ve had. Puget Energy is an example actually looking at opportunities that we have here. So, I think that we’ve got great wind – we have great potential – we have to find markets for the wind, both in Montana and beyond our state’s borders by working with regional partners, we’re seeing some real interest and greater opportunity but we also have to turn around and say, you know, it is amazing, ‘cause the grid’s something we’ve just kind of cobbled together over time and it doesn’t make sense in that respect. Investment’s there but then also exploring greater opportunities folks are finally starting to pay attention to what those are in Montana. Thanks for that, Valan. 

 

VA: Thank you. 

 

AOC: So, yeah, I have a couple of questions as well. So I, a couple years ago, had a huge event in North Dakota, and so I wasn’t able to attend the Standing Rock protests, you know, physically, but I was supportive of it mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. So, even now, I’m a water protector; I work on Flathead Reservation as a river guide: fishing, kayaking, rafting, anything on the river. We try every day to gain more support and more water protection, right? But even today, so I carry on that legacy of Standing Rock, but even today, that legacy is challenged in Montana with the Keystone XL pipeline and so we know that man camps cause detriment to indigienous women, as well as the millions of carbon – millions of metric tons of carbon, CO2 – that are transported through the pipeline. So my question is just a simple one – do you support the Keystone XL pipeline?

 

GB: We’ve actually been working with Fort Peck and others to make sure the consultation is direct because look, if we lose this water, is one example, it’s very, very concerning. But I think we also have to look at that oil right now is also being hauled by trains on a regular basis. So the way to both protect our natural resources here, we’ve asked even more recently for direct consultation and we need to have it with the tribes and sovereign nations. 

 

AOC: So…no? (Awkward laughs)

 

GB: I said from the beginning that, look, if it’s done right, we can’t take it off the table. But I think that what’s happened along the way too, is that this administration basically took the presidential permit through and just said ‘forget even the consultation that was necessary’ so I think we’re still ways away from doing that. 

 

AOC: I suspect that you are supportive of the missing and murdered indigenous women initiatives in Montana, but how do you reconcile the sort of quasi-support with pipelines with the direct attack on indiegenous communities in Montana…that the Keystone XL pipeline would present?

 

GB: Well,  think that’s why we’ve been working with Fort Peck to try to make sure, and as a water protector, look, in my time, as both Attorney General and as a Governor, I’ve dealt with two oil spills in the longest free-flowing river in the country, the Yellowstone river – and we can never have that up here. But that’s why we’ve been working directly with Fort Peck reservations. And let’s look at the challenges, what this can do to our water supplies. 

 

AOC: Thank you.

 

End 15:32

 

SD: Alright. So, my question deals with how we account for rising temperatures that affect the animals in our ecosystem that draw in tourists. And I guess not just (inaudible 15:44) the parasite that arose in Yellowstone River a couple years ago that was introduced by (inaudible 15:54). So I guess, how do you …

 

GB: And that’s another thing that you have to be thinking about along the way. Because, right? We are, just in the outdoor economy alone, 65,000 jobs, 6 billion dollars of spending. You look at your community, and I’ll never forget when we actually had to close down Yellowstone River at the height of the tourism season.

 

SD: Yeah. Exactly. 

 

GB: Because of a parasite. It’s also induced by changing water temperatures along the way. That’s one where, it was an amazing time and even when folks livelihoods were going to be substantially impacted that everybody came together and said we have to do this. But, it’s an important point to bring up because it’s not just, I mean what it’s doing to migration patterns around Yellowstone of animals is very, very significant as well. Part of it is the resiliency that we build in. But part of it then is also, and that’s why we’re including this Executive Order, things like the overall Fish, Wildlife, and Parks needs to be engaged as we’re looking at the science and not only it’s impact on us, but the impact on the (inaudible 17:13).

 

SD: Thank you.

 

VA: Yeah. So my second question kind of revolves around, so you’re talking about how, you know, companies in Oregon, and Washington are more interested in renewables and exporting renewables rather than coal. Here in Montana, a lot of our utilities are provided by Northwestern Energy so we kind of have one big energy company that is deciding a lot of our future and at this moment, they’re deciding what to do with Colstrip and how to provide more electricity in the future. And some environmental activists are kind of pressing them a lot in including renewables in their future plan, which there is not a great benefit for renewables. Certainly not in comparison to going carbon neutral by 2035, and we’ve also struggled with a Public Service Commission, not really accounting for those externalities, not really accounting for or climate change. They’re really just looking at the bottom line year-to-year and not really accounting for how things are going to change drastically. So, I wanted to ask you how we can put pressure on say, the private businesses, and on the Public Service Commission to regulate them in order to account more for climate change how we’re going to see in economics of coal and renewables in the future. 

 

GB: I think part of it is what you’re already doing, right? Showing up. Certain that this isn’t something that’s abstract. We have to address it. But there are also, more and more, as you can look at the possibilities going forward, distributing energy, of keeping more energy local, you know? You’ve had co-op after co-op as an example that are picking up solar panels just to take care of their customers because there’s credible customer demand there as well. And I think that all of your voices are part of what brings this discussion forward for everyone. 

 

VA: Thank you.

 

AOC: So as I mentioned before, I’m half Crow and I’m half Salish and as a Crow Tribal Member, we’re deeply invested in coal. We’re one of three nations in the United States that are actively developing our coal reserves. Of course here in Montana, the Crow and back home in Flathead, we’re also first to own our hydroelectric facility. So, we’re talking about basically a green revolution. We have to change socially, politically, economically, in order to meet this climate crisis. So, part of the conversation is how are we going to transition from a fossil fuel economy to a green economy? I would love to ask, do you agree that we need a just transition? And with that, with specific to Montana, how would we justly transition, keeping in mind you know, Colstop keeping in mind the Crow tribe, and all the 13 nations in Montana because for so long we’ve been put to the back burner. Right? We talk about the urgency of climate change yet for hundreds of years, urgency has been the justification for lots of displacement and active colonization. For example, the midnight forests, you know? It was urgent to conserve these national forests overnight, yet 93 million acres was transferred from tribal control to federal control without consultation. So, in that same vein how do you ensure that we have a just transition while also keeping in mind that this is an urgent crisis? 

 

GB: And I think that’s more than fair that we have to recognize that both are occuring. So, if we take it beyond Montana, IPCC says we have to be carbon neutral, net zero emissions, as a world, by 2050. I think that we can do it before that. And we’ve got to recognize, and we’ve seen it in Montana, that even the overall market is made part of our generation by coal fire power, unprofit, we’re seeing plants close. But scientists also say that we can’t just go and switch tomorrow, right? And I think that from my perspective, it’s an important reminder that as we go through this transition we can’t leave communities or nations behind. Folks that have powered this nation for their whole lifetime and then all of a sudden sort of, no, there’s something wrong with that, as opposed to saying, we need to be invested in the opportunity. We need to be invested in saying, we can’t leave a tribal nation or community behind. Senator Jason Small, he’s Northern Cheyenne, and he’s a boiler operator. One of the bills that he actually got to my desk was saying, as we look at the clean-up of Colstrip, when 1 and 2 shut-down, let’s actually pay a prevailing wage, let’s have skilled workers and I think that we need to look at this. There is an urgency to address climate change and we need to be doing that, but while we do that we can’t be leaving folks behind.

 

AOC: Thank you.

 

SD: So, America struggles with discussing climate change in a meaningful way where everyone knows what’s going on, even for me today, there have been things to come up that I’ve been questioning what was being said (inaudible 23:13) Where everyone can be included from all different (inaudible 23:19).

 

GB: It taps on this question as well, because you know I just had, a couple weeks ago in here, our fire review. And recognition that, in Montana, you know, we had the the worst fire season. It wasn’t localized, one point three million acres burned. We know that temperatures are much higher, we know these things. And folks at times though, it seems too abstract. Now, you’ve got a President thirty years ago, George H.W Bush that said we have to address this. We can’t wait another 30 years. But, I think what we need to do along the way to is … I think a lot of the resistance comes from the potential changes and folks not being able to view this as an opportunity. I mean ranchers turn around and say, what could happen to my way of life from a warming climate? But there’s sometimes when we talk about how we have to address climate change. Like, I’ve literally had a rancher say, you’re gonna make me get rid of all cows. No! But we can actually be invested in technology to make it less. And the federal government has a role to play in this, to be less intensive along the way or folks worrying about how … I mean, as we address climate change, an eledery couple (inaudible 24:50) Does that mean that much more for me and on a fixed income, I can’t necessarily face that. So, part of that has to be … And that’s the idea of this council, let’s look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to both employ people, sometimes in different ways and areas, to invest in technology, and that’s everything from agriculture to battery storage to the potentials for carbon capture. We put out, in 2015, an energy blueprint for the state and got diverse input everywhere from Missoula to Colstrip as we put that together. Once you start framing this as what the opportunities can be, not as just, here’s what’s going to happen, it’s just going to be regulatory efforts, I think that folks can start to see it. I think they are also starting to see, much more than I was a kid growing up, this isn’t something that we can just kick down the can or kick down the road three more decades by any means. 

 

SD: I guess a follow-up question would be, does the Council intend to help educate the public on what climate change means? 

 

GB: I think that’s the idea of bringing together … Right now, we already have like, baseline sort of polling or public surveys in Montana. ⅔ of Montanans say climate change is real and we have to do something about it, right? And it’s human caused. But, that’s the idea. I mean, how I think we work best in Montana, and I’ve seen this in so many different (inaudible 26:32), I mean from how we dealt with sage brush, like, we bring the stakeholders around the table, diverse groups and when you have everybody from the university system to organized labor to utilities, to conservationists saying let’s actually look at the signs, look at the challenges, but craft it as an opportunity. Part of the Council’s objective really is to do that education function. As well as setting actual, tangible benchmarks to get there along the way.

 

SD: Okay. Thank you.

 

GB: What do you all think government should be doing, and doing better? It isn’t just on government.

 

VA: I don’t think it’s entirely on the government. But, I think government has a really large role to play because government, right, that’s where we all come together and elect officials who represent our best interests and climate change especially is a problem of a global, national, you know, big issue. We need a lot of coordination. You know, it’s not in everyone’s best interest individually to do the right thing. But, it’s in all of our best interests to do it so we need that kind of basic framework to operate in. But, I’d just like to see government facilitating and maybe not, top-down like you’re saying because that can be kind of oppressive (inaudible 27:55). But, I’d love to see, just like, really supporting local community-led efforts and creating those opportunities, and removing any barriers there are for people to put up solar, to start a community solar project, to get involved. People are hungry to do this but we need the tools, the funding, the research to back it up.

 

AOC: I think government should be holding those who are responsible accountable. I think the greatest illusion that the American (inaudible — frozen video feed) Millions & billions of metric tons of C02, just what we need to be doing. So, I think the United States government has been subsidizing and artificially propping up fossil fuel industries. We need to stop now. I think it’s coming upon the leaders of the nation to lead and (inaudible 29:01). 

 

SD: Kind of bouncing off what he said, I actually think it’s important what the individual person does.

 

End 29:09

 

From 29:10 to 37:26

 

AOC: I will be studying with Doctor Robin Kumar on traditional knowledge systems and so you mentioned that the council you will be appointing will be using University standards and scientific standards. We know that Western science is just one way of knowing. How are we going to privilege and acknowledge and include other ways of knowing like traditional ecological knowledge?

 

Council: That’s a good question. I will have a representative from the tribes on that and that will be an opportunity there. We will have the opportunity to hear from you and others. We get that and certainly science is a key foundation and it’s going to be informing the work  of what the council does.

 

AOC: Awesome, thank you. So I have a question from Eddie in Billings. He says are you going to urge our Senators and Representatives to support the Green New Deal and do you support it?

 

GB: Well I support the idea of taking immediate and durable action. I think that’s what this is for when you come directly to here’s what Montana could do. And I’m excited to see that. I think that there are steps that you could immediately take. As far as the specific document, the four-page document, I think it’s aspirational but I think that there are concrete things that we can take directly as opposed to what this specific Green New Deal has proposed.

 

AOC: Thanks. So I have another question. I just want to thank you very deeply and personally for the vetoes for the anti-bison bills. I recently completed a masters at Montana State and I was studying bison repatriation to tribes as well as restoration to Montana so I think those bills were very damaging in terms of getting those two things done. With respect to this conversation with climate change and this may be very controversial but we have, I mean agriculture is one of Montana’s largest industries and with that you know of course the beef lobby has just as much influence right? How does the bison and the buffalo conversation play into addressing climate change as well as sort of trying to balance out our imbalance in terms of how much emissions are contributed through beef production?

 

GB: So I think that that’s one of the areas where I mean I wouldn’t put bison against cattle. I mean, UC Davis has done some studies, even if you put seaweed into the feed before cattle I think you could drop emissions by 80%. So that’s one of them where I turn around and say we need to look at this as an opportunity. Any other time, I mean there’s been more technological change in the last five years and in so many ways we’ve dealt with energy reduction and I think that’s where at the federal level too we have the obligation to be investing in these areas of research to see what things will be reflective.

 

AOC: Sure, thank you.

 

VA: You have a question from Sam in Great Falls. What actions can be taken quickly to start addressing the climate crisis and avert the worst impacts and what can be done to help farmers and ranchers deal with climate impacts and strengthen those rural communities?

 

GB: I think that in part for Montana’s piece that’s exactly what we’re doing with this climate council. You know at a greater level it’s amazing how you can turn around and say we can’t do this alone. Like to remove ourselves from global leadership, stepping out of the Paris Accords was challenging because the U.S. can’t do it all. That’s why local governments and the States have been stepping back. And even the auto industry has been asking for the removal of these fuel efficiency standards and ought to be reinstated right away. And then taking both the short term and the long-term goal. I mean we know we have to take about a billion tons of greenhouse gas out each and every year if we’re actually going to meet what’s necessary. And looking at it directly from your question on the farmers and ranchers, of the ability to turn around and say how can we incentivize good conservation practices for the individual rancher or farmer because they are the best conservationists in many respects that we will ever have. Looking at those paths along the way and I think that we can do more for sure.

 

VA: I have a quick follow-up. So, Montana is one of the leaders in growing hemp which is a really recent industry with the 2018 farm bill allowing it to be grown in all 50 states and it has a really amazing potential to boast lesser carbon and to be used for biofuel, it can be used for all kinds of materials that are biodegradable. Do you see that as a major part of Montana’s industry and jumping on the hemp industry?

 

GB: Well I take this position because we’re actually growing more hemp than any state in the country and you look at it even with you talk about consumer use. I mean that there are ways to look at hemp for so many different products and as a net capture. We can’t just do this. We actually have to capture some of the (inaudible). So I think it’s providing an exciting time and I think our producers all across the state are seeing what the possibility very well could be.

 

VA: Awesome.

 

Off-camera: We have time for one more.

 

SD: Alright, I have a question from Brett in Livingston. How can you ensure that Montana’s low-income communities can access renewable energy?

 

GB: Well I think, Brett, that’s one of the things that we’ve got to figure out both across the state and one of the ideas of the council. I mean what we’ve even seen over the last, even since the time I’ve been in office. I mean technology has driven part of this so it’s not necessarily that it would cost more to have renewable energy than it would carbon-based energy. But I think that as the council comes together, we have to look both at areas that are large and small. We can’t leave communities behind for certain and we’ve got to look overall at a way to bring the prices down. I think it is possible and that’s one of the things that I get the desire that this has to be done and it does have to be done. But that’s the idea of bringing together all of these folks and saying let’s actually put together this blueprint, this way that we know we can attain it.

Well, I appreciate you all joining. I also encourage you to keep a close eye on what the council is doing every step of the way. By the signing of this executive order, there’s going to be many, many more steps going forward. And I appreciate the good work that Forward Montana has been doing in bringing this conversation not just to the state House but also to every corner of our state.