By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA – The 2012 rendition of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is vastly different than the young, wide-eyed former state lawmaker who hit the nation’s capital in 2007 after winning a tight election.
To wit, in 2007, the Democratic senator’s first year on Capitol Hill, Tester was incredibly concerned about global warming and its impact on the environment. Tester, in a Sept. 27, 2007, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting, discussed global warming and its effect on Montana wildfires.
“I’ve listened to the folks with boots on the ground,” Tester said in a news release. “It’s no secret they’re working longer and harder to put out blazes that get bigger and more dangerous every year.”
That year was a particularly tough one for Montanans and the environment.
About 778,000 acres burned in 2007, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center, a government consortium tracking wildfires and activating adequate assets to fight them. That number, caused by 1,875 total fires statewide, represented a high spike in annual acres scorched.
In short, Tester had good reason for concern and he wasn’t afraid of displaying it. “It’s time to start doing more from a policy standpoint to be proactive when fire season rolls around,” Tester urged in the 2007 committee meeting. “We do that by cracking down on global warming.”
Yet, the 2012 rendition of Tester – somewhat changed by a tight U.S. Senate challenge from Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg – exudes little, if any, of that same environmental concern and dedication this year, even as wildfires ravage the state.
More than 1,697 fires burned in Montana this year, devastating 909,949 acres, according to the NRCC numbers updated Tuesday morning. That’s 130,000 more acres than were scorched in 2007.
The situation could grow even more dire. Inciweb, a real-time fire tracking tool, notes a number of fires still burning around the state. The Mustang Complex fire in Idaho, near the Montana border, clouds Treasure State skies with smog as it surpasses 290,000 acres burned.
Yet, in what’s a red-letter wildfire year, Tester remains silent on global warming and the ecological phenomenon’s relation to the blazes destroying Montana land.
To be certain, Tester’s been all over Twitter offering support for firefighters and delivering updates on fire conditions. He tweeted an interactive fire map several times and told followers about meeting with firefighters working the Delphia Fire. On July 6, he tweeted that he and his wife, Sharla, had first responders “in their thoughts and prayers.”
Yet, a search of Tester’s active Twitter feed and campaign website reveals no mention of global warming or climate change. The senator comes close by casually mentioning on his website he “believes in protecting Montana’s clean air and water, ensuring public access to public lands, protecting gun rights, and ensuring healthy populations of fish and wildlife.”
Still, the words stop short of the global warming alarmist ringing the environmental bell in that 2007 committee meeting.
It’s not the senator’s first time in keeping mum on the issue.
During his 2006 race with then-incumbent U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, a Republican, someone with a video camera – possibly a hidden opposition party operative – caught Tester cautioning on the global warming’s dangers. “This global warming issue, it’s a huge issue, it’s not even arguable anymore, I think it’s the No. 1 issue facing the world,” Tester said.
Though he might truly believe global warming is the “No. 1 issue facing the world,” Tester is keeping that talk close to the vest chest as he seeks independent votes critical to keeping his Senate seat. He has run no ads on his environmental credentials and failed to mention global warming or climate change in the first Senate debate June 16 in Big Sky.
Perhaps the 2007 Tester iteration would condemn the 2012 version of himself.
“The cost of doing nothing is far greater,” Tester said in 2007 of global warming inaction.
And that, for whatever reason, is how the Democratic senator operates in 2012.
Contact Dustin Hurst via email: Dustin@Watchdog.org. You might also catch him on Twitter: @DustinHurst.