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St. Ignatius man questions Governor on climate change

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Avery Old Coyote delivered a hard-hitting question during a live Facebook town hall that Governor Steve Bullock held concerning the state of Montana’s approach to climate change. During the meeting, Bullock also announced the creation of an executive order focused on climate change.  

“My question is just a simple one,” Old Coyote said. “Do you support the Keystone XL Pipeline?”

Bullock didn’t have a direct answer. He said he would be consulting with the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes to hear their perspective on the issue. He added that he wanted to protect Montana’s water from contamination associated with the pipeline. 

Old Coyote asked for clarification on whether the governor supported construction of the pipeline. “So, no?” he said.

Bullock said: “I said from the beginning that if it’s done right we can’t take it off the table.”

Old Coyote is a member of the Crow Tribe and is also Salish. He is from St. Ignatius. He has worked as a river guide on the Flathead River. He said he wants to protect the water and continue the work started by people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. He pointed out that in other areas men working on pipelines have harmed native women living on reservations. Bullock didn’t comment on the relationship between the installation of a pipeline and the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 

Bullock, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, held the Young Montanans & Climate Change Announcement and town hall on July 1. The event, which was broadcast live from the Facebook page of the Forward Montana Foundation, served as an opportunity for Bullock to announce his climate change executive order. The order enters Montana into the U.S. Climate Alliance. 

The alliance is a group of states committed to working against climate change by adhering to the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. as a whole pulled out of in 2017. According to NASA, climate change is defined as “a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to earth’s atmosphere.”

Bullock listed Montana’s increasing droughts and wildfires and vanishing glaciers as effects of climate change. “These impacts are among the most pronounced in the entire country,” he said. He also stated that addressing climate change was necessary in order to sustain economic growth in the state. 

The order also created a council of stakeholders intended to assess challenges and create solutions for reducing carbon emissions in Montana. The council will work toward a goal of carbon neutrality in the electrical sector by 2035. The council will work to achieve its goal by enacting change in agriculture, the labor force and the university system.

After announcing his plan, the three young people invited to the event asked Bullock questions about his stance on climate change. Valan Anthos, an environmental and climate activist of Missoula; Sula Duncan, a high school junior from Livingston; and Old Coyote were on the panel.

Old Coyote also asked Bullock how a shift away from fossil-fuel energy and toward renewable energy would impact the social and economic situations of tribal people and others who make their living from non-renewable energy like coal. Bullock said the solution would have to support those who have participated in fossil fuel industries. “We can’t leave communities or nations behind,” he said.

Old Coyote’s final question was one he said could be controversial: “How do the bison play into the conversation about climate change in terms of how much emissions are contributed through beef production?” Bullock said that while he supports the beef industry, he would like to see research done to reduce the carbon footprint of raising cows. 


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