Gov. Greg Gianforte is affirming his support for restarting the Keystone XL Pipeline by meeting with Montanans directly affected by President Joe Biden's executive order halting the oil pipeline.
Gianforte made three stops in northern Montana on Friday, all focused on hearing directly from those impacted by Biden’s decision.
The first stop was a pipe yard in Phillips County. Gianforte met with Marty Jorgensen, president of Barnard Pipeline, a company laying some of the pipeline through the state.
“This year, for the first time in 46 years, we’ll probably lay off 40-50 people,” said Jorgensen. “You can drive from here to the border to Nebraska and stop at every little town along the way and you can find support for this project all the way through. It’s devastating.”
“There’s no good reasons why Montanans have lost their jobs and are sitting at home right now except that President Biden is trying to make a political statement and pander to environmental extremists,” Gianforte said.
The next stop was a pole yard owned by Big Flat Electric Co-op. Employees talked about the impact of not being able to supply electricity to pipeline pump stations.
“You’re talking Norval, McCone, and Sun River, so it’s not just the northeast corner. It goes all the way down to the southern border of Montana. So it’s affecting us directly, but it’s affecting Montana,” said Gretchen Boardman of Big Flat Electric Co-op.
"What can we do to make you reconsider?” Big Flat Electric Co-op board president Alan Wasson said when asked by Gianforte what he would like to say to the Biden administration.
The final stop of the day was a roundtable discussion in Glasgow with an array of community members.
“The economic impact on our community is well into the millions and millions of dollars,” said Lisa Koski, director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.
“I have to look at the financial end of the school district and see if we can continue to hire teachers,” said Wade Sundby, Glasgow schools superintendent.
Gianforte said he hopes the community testimony will help put a face to the issue and in turn help encourage Biden to reverse his decision.
“We’re not going to give up,” said Gianforte. “It’s important we continue to push forward and make sure this project gets in the ground.”