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Coal industry hopeful after Gianforte wins Montana House seat

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Republican Greg Gianforte addresses supporters May 25, 2017, at a hotel ballroom in Bozeman, Mont., after winning Montana's sole House seat. The coal industry was concerned a victory by Gianforte's Democratic opponent Rob Quist would mean a continuation of the "war on coal."

Source: Associated Press

The coal industry is thrilled with Republican Greg Gianforte's victory in a special election to fill Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gianforte won the seat with 50.2% of the vote, according to election results reported by The New York Times. Democratic opponent Rob Quist got 44.1% of the vote for the seat left vacant when the Trump administration appointed Ryan Zinke to head the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Republican candidate won the election despite an incident in which he allegedly attacked a reporter at a campaign event. Gianforte apologized to the reporter after his victory.

Rick Curtsinger, spokesperson for Cloud Peak Energy Inc., expressed optimism to S&P Global Market Intelligence over Gianforte's election.

"Representative-elect Gianforte has repeatedly expressed a recognition of the important role that coal mining and energy production from coal play in Montana's economy," he said. "We are hopeful that this knowledge will inform his positions on issues and legislation in Washington."

Cloud Peak operates the Spring Creek mine in southeastern Montana.

Luke Popovich, spokesperson for the National Mining Association, told S&P Global Market Intelligence he suspected "a Montana Republican is more certain to appreciate the value of mining to Montana's economy than a folk-singing Democrat."

The coal industry had expressed concern that a win by Quist would signal a return of the Obama administrations's "war on coal."

Gianforte expressed support for "clean coal" efforts like carbon capture during his campaign.

Quist, on the other hand, said he would like to see a movement away from coal-fired power generation, but that it would need to be gradual since Montana's budget relies on the coal and petroleum industries.