Responding to a Lee Newspapers questionnaire in today’s Helena Independent Record, the seven GOP gubernatorial candidates all said that Montana must “develop our natural resources” as a way to reduce unemployment and make our economy strong, and that “red tape” and “excessive regulations” are standing in the way of such development.
Which raises an interesting question: what resources, exactly, are we not developing? Are there oil wells known to be pregnant that have not been tapped, because of regulations? I doubt it. The amount of exploration taking place in Eastern Montana is comprehensive. Landowners often receive giant checks from oil companies just for the right to test the ground and search for oil. Any identified oil deposit whose recovery would not be hindered by some geological problem is already being drilled.
And coal? The rights to the Otter Creek coal deposit are now owned by the largest coal company in America, with designs on extracting it after paying an up front bonus of $80 million to the state of Montana. To my knowledge, the Arch company has not indicated that any rules or regulations are causing a hindrance to development. Nor have the owners of any other coal deposit, or oil field.
As is well known, Montana is developing its resources at a faster rate than at any time in the state’s history. So the question that should have been asked of these candidates is: What resources are not being developed? Where are they, precisely? Who owns them? And why are these owners not registering the same complaint as these seven buffoons running for Governor?
Perhaps the able newspaperwomen and men at the Lee company will ask these follow-up questions in the future.