N. Gregory Kohn, chairman of the board of the Billings Chamber of Commerce and director of human resources at Rocky Mountain College, stood out as the voice for the environment at the American Energy Alliance’s Bus Tour event at the Big Horn Resort in Billings on Monday.
“Everybody has a responsibility to protect the environment, and energy development has to be done responsibly,” he said. “I don’t think that we should hinder new development of our energy resources - we must do it responsibly.”
Mr. Kohn was the singular person at the AEA event to mention natural beauty. He said, “Montana’s natural beauty, its rivers, its plains, its national parks, are unrivalled. Energy must be developed in an efficient, responsible way ... . Responsible reclamation of land is critical not only by mandate, but also because of sense of shared responsibility.”
Mr. Kohn pointed out that some mines, such as the Spring Creek Mine in Decker, have espoused reclamation and have replanted much vegetation and even started a greenhouse to repopulate the land with indigenous plants. Reviews are mixed, however, on the success of such reclamation projects.
State Republican Sens. Ed Walker, R-Laurel, and Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge, spoke at the AEA event. Along with Atlas Shrugged Tea Party Movement Leader Eric Olson, they want Montana to get rich, be rich and stay rich.
“We are 40th in take-home pay in Carbon County,” said Sen. Priest. Priest said he wants Montana to be the place where innovation in business attracts copious amounts of money.
“Fracking was invented in Wyoming. It should have been invented here,” Sen. Priest said. In another question about how to get more money into Montana, Eric Olson, in shorts and a red polo shirt, said more money from oil ought to stay in Montana.
“Why is our hard-earned money going to foreign oil wells overseas?” asked Mr. Olson. “China absorbed the prosperity we gave up. One of the biggest mistakes we ever made was to give oil rights to the commodity market. We cannot predict the oil price in order to efficiently run a business. North Dakota is producing 500,000 barrels of oil per day and Montana is producing 60,000. We have a lot of catching up to do. Drill here, drill now.” he said.
Mike McKenna, the leader of the AEA Bus Tour, group provided soda, water, brats, burgers and potato salad. The group said it has traveled to Billings in the bus three times in the last 12 months.