HB 467, by Rep. Denise Hayman (D-Bozeman), would allow NorthWestern Energy–with the approval of the Public Service Commission, and with public input–to essentially refinance the debt on utility owned assets that are either retired or replaced.
NorthWestern Energy customers may be obligated to continue paying off the $407 million cost of Colstrip until 2042, regardless of when the plant closes. Signs suggest it will be closing considerably sooner than that. Washington State legislation would require two of the six Colstrip owners, who own 40% of the two largest units of the plant, to stop providing coal power to Washington by 2025. If Colstrip closes before 2042, NorthWestern customers could be responsible for paying off the stranded asset and providing NorthWestern Energy with an 8.25% rate of return.
HB 467 would authorize NorthWestern Energy, with PSC approval, to issue ratepayer-backed bonds to refinance its debt at a lower interest rate, which could save customers millions of dollars. The bill is optional, but is an important tool in the toolbox to make sure that NorthWestern customers aren’t stuck with crushing rates because of an unused coal plant or transmission line. MEIC strongly supports this bill.
Passed the House Energy Committee on a 12-0 vote. Passed the House Floor on an 87-13 vote. Awaits a Senate hearing sometime in March.