For many years, Montana has developed our natural resources – we can think of timber in western Montana, copper in Butte, coal throughout many parts of the state and again a resurgence of oil and gas in eastern Montana. At their economic peaks, each energy industry has created a quick demand for additional services and infrastructure. Communities like Sidney, Glendive, Bainville and Culbertson have and continue to feel the strain of a quickly growing oil and gas industry.
Recently, HB 218, a bill meant to send $35 million to communities most impacted by rapid growth, was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock. While we respect the governor’s position and likewise want Montana to be fiscally sound, our opportunity – our responsibility to help the communities of eastern Montana is right now. At the Big Sky Energy Forum recently held in Billings, Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser cited the need for $55 million to make necessary improvements to his community – needs like a new lagoon, water lines and more. Add the needs of additional communities and that number soars well above $100 million.
It’s important to remember the entire state of Montana is reaping millions of dollars from the development of oil and gas in eastern Montana. HB 218 was passed overwhelmingly in both the Senate (48-2) and the House (93-6) to help make that area whole. Today, an effort is being made by legislators to overturn the governor’s veto. We implore all current legislators to listen to the pleas of our eastern Montana colleagues and vote to overturn this veto. This really is a strategic economic development investment that benefits all of Montana.
Steve Arveschoug, executive director
Big Sky Economic Development
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