A new poll this week shows the Montana Senate race is neck-and-neck. What’s at stake in Big Sky Country?

Background: Montana’s natural resources are the envy of the nation. It sits atop the Bakken shale, one of the largest accumulations of crude oil in the United States, which is currently estimated to be capable of producing 3.7 billion barrels of oil; the U.S. Geological Survey may raise that estimate as development continues. In addition, Montana holds over one-quarter of the estimated recoverable reserve base of coal in the United States and was the sixth largest coal-producing state in 2011, supplying 3.8 percent of U.S. coal and distributing it to 13 States. Montana is home to four refineries, as well. Accordingly, the energy industry – from extraction through to processing and transportation – has been a boon for the state’s economy.
Despite this, however, Senator Jon Tester – a lifelong Montanan – has consistently voted against families and job creators in his home state.

Cap-and-trade: Tester voted to allow discretionary spending for a cap-and-trade program, and has said that he supports the idea of capping greenhouse gases. A study by the Heritage Foundation found that the Senate version of cap-and-trade, the Lieberman-Warner bill, would cost Montana 2,779 manufacturing jobs, diminish Montana’s GDP $273.1 million and decrease the personal incomes of Montanans $337.6 million by 2030. In addition, they found that Montanans would pay an additional $399 (20%) for gasoline, an additional $136 for natural gas, and an additional $274 for electricity by 2025. ATR has long opposed cap-and-trade because of its devastating economic effects – which would crush an energy-producing state like Montana.

Tax Hiking: Tester voted to raise taxes on oil companies – which would not only be passed on to consumers, but hit Montana-based companies hard, leaving them with less money for hiring and growth. In a March 2011 report, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that Tester and the Democrats’ proposed energy tax hikes would “make oil and natural gas more expensive for U.S. consumers.” The Montana Petroleum Association made clear that Tester’s tax hikes “would increase gas and diesel prices and could jeopardize good-paying jobs in Billings.”
Tester now seeks cover under his Keystone Pipeline vote, pretending that he is a friend of the energy industry. But his record points to the contrary.

Sen. Tester may not like it, but Montana is blessed with fossil fuels – and Montanans deserve elected officials in Washington who will fight for their interests, not march in lockstep with the President’s green energy proposals.