When it got here to rising and selling his aerial firefighting firm, Montana businessman Tim Sheehy was, for years, outspoken about the necessity to fight international local weather change, even publicly supporting a serious initiative to curb emissions and spend money on local weather resilience.
But since launching his Republican bid for Senate in June, Sheehy has toed the occasion line on local weather, railing in opposition to what he calls the “climate cult” and the “disastrous socialist Green New Deal.”
On one hand, his sudden shift is unsurprising, given he’s looking for the Republican nomination in an more and more deep-red state. Here’s how Montana author James Conner just lately summarized the political panorama: “This is what a candidate does to prepare for a Republican primary. Acknowledging that the globe is warming won’t hurt him in a general election, but it will in a primary.”
On the opposite hand, it’s a shameless show of opportunism and partisan rhetoric that comes because the nation suffers quickly worsening local weather impacts — and as Sheehy’s firm, Bridger Aerospace, continues to tout itself as a pacesetter within the battle in opposition to planet-warming greenhouse fuel emissions.
Sheehy and his marketing campaign didn’t reply to HuffPost’s request for remark by press time.
A embellished former Navy SEAL, Sheehy is campaigning for an opportunity to tackle Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in 2024. He is extensively anticipated to face far-right Rep. Matt Rosedale (R-Mont.) within the Republican major, though Rosedale has not formally introduced his candidacy.
Sheehy based Bridger Aerospace in 2014 after retiring from the army. The firm has grown exponentially in recent times, with a fleet of 28 aircraft, together with a number of water scoopers, which have assisted in battling fires throughout the Western U.S. and elements of Canada. In 2022, the corporate raked in additional than $46 million in income — 96% of which got here from federal contracts, in response to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sheehy earned nearly $5 million in wage and bonuses as the corporate’s CEO final 12 months and owns firm inventory that as of Friday was valued at $83 million.
Sheehy has continued to function Bridger’s chief government officer since launching his Senate bid, and marketing campaign ads have prominently featured the corporate’s plane. If elected to the Senate, he would have oversight over the identical federal companies which have bankrolled his enterprise. All of this has raised battle of curiosity questions, as Bloomberg and NBC News have reported.
Climate change has been a serious a part of Bridger Aerospace’s advertising and marketing and enterprise technique.
In a presentation to traders this month, the corporate boasted that its mission is to “directly attack CO2 emissions to combat climate change.” One slide features a graphic detailing the “vicious cycle” between more and more catastrophic wildfires, carbon air pollution and planetary warming. Another notes that “climate change has elongated the active northern hemisphere fire season.”
In a separate presentation this month about its second-quarter earnings, Bridger wrote that “demand for aerial firefighting continues to grow driven by climate change, population moving to wildfire prone areas and shift from ground to air-based suppression.”
A Bridger filing with the SEC for the 2022 fiscal 12 months options the phrase “climate” dozens of occasions, largely within the context of how local weather change might affect the corporate’s future enterprise.
“We are not able to accurately predict the materiality of any potential losses or costs associated with the physical effects of climate change,” it reads. “We believe that rising global temperatures have been, and in the future are expected to be, one factor contributing to increasing rates and severity of wildfires. Climate change and global temperatures are impacted my [sic] many variables, however, and cannot be predicted with certainty.”
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the highly effective National Republican Senatorial Committee, is amongst a number of Republicans who’ve endorsed Sheehy, citing his expertise as a fight veteran, profitable businessman and job creator.
But what Daines and others aren’t speaking about is how the Republican hopeful made his fortune serving to confront a disaster that the GOP has for many years denied and downplayed whereas working to spice up the manufacturing of planet-warming fossil fuels.
Sheehy additionally appears to be distancing himself from that legacy. Sometime earlier than Sheehy introduced his Senate bid, Bridger scrubbed local weather language from its web site, together with a line in regards to the firm “fighting on the front lines of climate change,” ABC News reported final month.
A spokesperson for Sheehy advised ABC on the time that it was nothing greater than a routine web site replace.
Yet his rhetoric on the marketing campaign path would recommend in any other case.
Sheehy’s marketing campaign web site options an issues page that’s chock-full of favourite Republican speaking factors. In a piece on forest administration, Sheehy touts having created 200 jobs within the aerial firefighting sector earlier than railing in opposition to each the federal authorities — his firm’s greatest shopper — and “radical environmentalists.”
“I have a unique perspective on what the federal government is failing to address when it comes to tackling wildfires—they need to let Montana start managing our federal lands,” the web site reads, seemingly flirting with a full embrace of the unpopular motion to switch management of federal lands to states. “We also need to stand strong against the radical environmentalists who are suing and shutting down timber projects with frivolous litigation. If we can responsibly manage our forests, we can harvest timber, create high-paying jobs, and reduce the threat of wildfires.”
Another part of the web site, on the economic system and vitality, notes that the U.S. should “take a strong stand against the disastrous socialist Green New Deal that would destroy Montana’s economy and jobs and devastate our communities.”
But as just lately as two years in the past, Sheehy publicly supported main local weather initiatives, together with a blue state legislative bundle with provisions that mirror facets of the Green New Deal, a progressive set of guiding ideas to rein in greenhouse fuel emissions and construct local weather resilience.
In March 2021, a couple of weeks after President Joe Biden reentered the United States into the Paris local weather accord, Sheehy revealed an op-ed within the Salt Lake Tribune applauding a newly shaped, bipartisan wildfire caucus in Congress. In it, he known as for international cooperation to battle local weather change.
“There are several explanations for the proliferation and escalating damage of wildfires, and addressing those causes requires renewed attention of local, state and federal governments and — when it comes to climate change — international cooperation,” Sheehy wrote.
Several months later, Sheehy appeared on CBS News to debate the rising menace of wildfires within the West and a $15 billion local weather bundle that California had just lately handed into legislation. In the interview, he mentioned the numerous complicated elements driving excessive hearth, together with local weather change and a long time of fireside suppression which have left forests choked in extra fuels.
“Ultimately what he’s doing is finally bringing the necessary legislative and government focus to the wildland fire issue, which has been plaguing the U.S. for decades,” Sheehy mentioned of California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. “And how we’ve addressed it has really been antiquated and an incremental approach that is underfunded, under-resourced, undermanned, and put the entire situation into a category where we’re always reacting to the fires instead of being prepared for them ahead of time.”
“It’s great to see at least one of our state leaders now stepping up and providing the proper amount of funding and resources to address the issue,” he added.
The California local weather package that impressed Sheehy a lot contained billions for wildfire, forest and drought resilience. But it additionally funded Green New Deal-esque initiatives which have grow to be a goal of the GOP’s environmental tradition wars, together with $3.9 billion for electrical car investments and grants for environmental justice tasks.
In the weeks since saying his Senate marketing campaign, Sheehy’s rhetoric has solely grown more and more partisan and weird. In an interview with Fox News final month, he known as American fossil fuels “the cleanest form of energy known to man” — a wildly inaccurate assertion.
Earlier this week, a Montana choose dominated in favor of 16 youth plaintiffs who sued the state in 2020 and argued that state companies had violated their constitutional proper to a “clean and healthful environment” by approving fossil gasoline tasks with out contemplating local weather impacts. Sheehy joined Daines and different Montana Republicans in attacking the choose, the younger Montana plaintiffs — his would-be constituents — and Democratic local weather insurance policies.
“The latest example of a liberal activist judge trying to legislate radical Green New Deal disastrous policies from the bench,” Sheehy wrote on social media. “We must fight back and take a strong stand against the climate cult and their job-killing agenda.”
Just not when it entails securing authorities contracts to confront the specter of climate-exacerbated wildfire, apparently.