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Montana leaders push for energy action as war in Ukraine continues

Montana State Capitol Ukraine
Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 20:10:04-05

HELENA — The ongoing war in Ukraine has been at the center of attention on Capitol Hill this week, including for Montana’s elected leaders.

In Helena, Governor Greg Gianforte ordered the flag of Ukraine to fly at the state Capitol. Montana's U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester have condemned Russia’s attacks on Ukraine – and made the crisis a big part of their discussions on issues like energy.

Tester and Daines are among 18 senators from both parties who have signed on to a proposed bill that would declare a national emergency and direct President Joe Biden to ban imports of oil, natural gas, and coal from Russia.

“The fact of the matter is energy is something that Putin depends on for his finances, and he’s depending on it to fight this war in Ukraine,” Tester said at a news conference on Thursday. “We see the tragedy that’s happening in Ukraine for the last week. It is the very least that we can do to stop any energy imports into this country.”

So far, however, the Biden administration has expressed reluctance to support a ban on Russian oil because it could lead to even higher gas prices.

Daines has also blamed the administration and Senate Democrats, saying they aren’t taking enough action to promote American energy development during this crisis. He criticized them Thursday for not advancing his “SMART Energy Act,” a bill that would require the administration to restart oil and gas leases on public lands, as well as develop plans for renewable energy there.

“We can’t let America get to that same point of following this path of a very dangerous ideology of shutting down made-in-America energy, because as Europe has continued to stop investing in traditional energy, they’ve become more dependent on adversaries like Russia for energy, and now the cost of energy is skyrocketing,” Daines said in a speech on the floor of the Senate.

Daines also said he was disappointed with decisions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that he said would make it harder and more expensive to build natural gas pipelines in the U.S.

Tester did release a statement earlier this week, calling on Biden to “immediately use the tools at our disposal to increase domestic energy production.” He said the administration should support “responsible domestic oil and gas production” and again criticized their decision to reject a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Montana's U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale received attention this week after he was one of only three House members to vote against a non-binding resolution calling for additional defensive and humanitarian support for Ukraine.