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Todd O'Hair President and CEOOil is on a price tear around the world and is expected to only get worse as the conflict in Ukraine continues, with the US and other countries increasing economic sanctions on Russia.  Energy is at the center of this conflict.  Emboldened Russian leaders were confident their energy supplies and Europe’s increased dependency on Russian oil and natural gas, would surely create a deterrent too costly to respond.  Peace and abundant oil supplies lulled many countries into placing energy as a strategic national security issue as a secondary or tertiary issue.  Overnight, losing sight of energy as an economic and national security issue began to look as not only foolish, but costly. 

Closer to home, in Montana and the Pacific Northwest, energy is the sleeping giant that is beginning to awaken.  As a state, Montana is steadily slipping into becoming a net importer of electricity, forcing more and more electricity to be purchased on the open market and putting us in the business of competing against states like California for electricity.   And within the last year, the issue of breaching hydro-electric dams along the lower Snake River emerged again with the surprising support of Republican Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson.  What’s old is new again and that hard fought battle back in the 1990’s is back, threatening the energy security and economy of the entire region.  Further proof of the complacency around energy as a whole. 

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has joined with the State Chambers of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, to create a coalition and unified voice on this critical issue.  State leaders in the region recognize the threat to our economies.  Breaching the snake river dams subtract energy supplies in a time of increasing electricity demand.  We will keep you updated on our efforts and the latest on this serious proposal.  In the meantime, we are passing along two articles outlining the serious nature of this proposal and it’s impact in particular on rural electric cooperatives in western Montana.  A special thanks to Gary Wiens, CEO of Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association, for sharing these stories.

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