How nearly empty swaths of Montana guide policy on the Keystone pipeline
All politics is local — even politics that impact the entire nation.
In Montana, political support for extending the Keystone pipeline to shunt tar-sands oil from Alberta to Oklahoma is a given. Both of the state’s senators, Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), publicly support the extension — but they don’t have much choice. From the Washington Post:
In October, a Montana State University Billings poll found that 64 percent of Montanans supported the pipeline, with 14 percent opposed and 22 percent undecided. …
Earlier in the permitting process, Baucus successfully lobbied for a design change in which TransCanada agreed to use thicker pipe along the Montana portion of its route. Tester had sought to add language to the highway bill that would require the oil shipped through the pipeline to be refined and sold in the United States, but it remains uncertain if such as provision could make it into law.
Local politics both prompts the senators’ support and guides what they seek from any compromise. In a state of fewer than 1 million people, even the accurate estimates of how many jobs will be created are appealing. And, in a nation of 309 million, it’s why 2 percent of the Senate is committed to the Keystone pipeline on behalf of 0.3 percent of the total population.