DUANE ANKNEY HD 43, (COLSTRIP) ADDRESSES BIG SKY ENERGY FORUM IN BILLINGS
Representative Duane Ankney, HD 43, Colstrip was one of three speakers, at the opening banquet of the Big Sky Energy Forum Roundtable held in Billings, MT on May 7th and 8th.
The event was attended by key representatives of the energy industry, State folks, even Governor Steve Bullock- who spoke later, and tribal representatives
Ankney who served as the Chairperson of the powerful House Appropriations Committee modestly introduced himself as “jest an old coal-miner who wants to see folks get ‘shoes for the baby.” Ankney said that he was very discouraged that Governor Steve Bullock vetoed two bills: HB 218: Duane’s bill that would have created a program to assist with impacts of oil & gas development and SB 236, sponsored by Alan Olson, Roundup which would have increased funding for the Coal Board (up to 4.8 million), long a critical funding source for southeastern MT, including the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and Colstrip. Ankney made history by shepherding a 100-0 vote for the State Budget. He said “That’s what possible when people of good intention work together.”
The Colstrip representative also explained that it is possible for the Legislature to override the Governor’s veto through a mail polling process. “I think it might work,” he predicted, “But, Everyone’s support for that is critical,” he urged. “Call the Governor’s office and call your representativesin favor of that,” He said.
Ankey also spoke about other energy possibilities such as oil shale; Co2 pipeline and Otter Creek. Jim Atchison, Director of Southeastern Montana Development Corporation, Colstrip also provided the following statistics that were aired at the conference:
- The average annual payroll at the Cloud Peak Mine, Spring Creek is $117,000 (salaries and fringe benefits) for 257 workers. Even the ‘low-paying’ jobs average $70,000-$80,000 per year,
- John Williams, Colstrip, current Coal Board Chairman noted that Montana needs to “embrace the opportunity for coal —it can only improve our quality of life” Williams has served for eight years as the Coal Board Chair. In that capacity he has been extremely supportive of projects for Colstrip, the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and other impacted areas.