With a little more than 3 weeks until Election Day, two candidates for Montana’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives met in Bozeman Saturday night in their last debate before the election.
Most of the issues Republican Steve Daines and Democrat Kim Gillan discussed centered around the role of the federal government in Montana.
A question about the Bakken oil boom in eastern Montana and the controversial oil extraction technique called “fracking” exposed differing positions for the two candidates.
Moderators asked whether they were confident current EPA regulations were enough to protect groundwater in the area from potential contamination.
Daines expressed confidence in the technique, calling fracking “a proven technology.” He said he thinks regulations are important for oil extraction in Montana, but he said he’d prefer to see the state regulate on its own, without the EPA.
"It's a proven technology, and there are not documented cases of contamination of the aquifer from fracking fluids,” said Daines. “Now having said that, it's important that we put the guidelines in place so it's managed responsibly, and I'm proud of the fact, that here in Montana, we've gotten ahead of the curve."
Gillan said she believes residents and landowners in eastern Montana are still concerned about lasting impacts of the Baken oil boom. She said she supports EPA regulations, and called for more transparency from oil companies.
"I think the concern that I hear from folks up in the Bakken is that oil development is an opportunity, but it's also a challenge,” said Gillan. “And coming from Billings, which is an energy area, I know that I've always promoted responsible and balanced development."
Recent polls show Daines continuing to lead Gillan by around 10 percentage points.