HB 78 requires for-profit utilities (i.e. NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities) to hold at least two public meetings as part of their long-term resource planning processes.
This is a consumer protection bill. By allowing more experts to provide perspective and feedback to the utility that it might not otherwise have access to or consider, it is less likely a utility will make poor or overpriced investments (the cost of which falls on ratepayers). All other major utilities in the northwest hold open planning meetings. Currently, NorthWestern’s planning meetings are invite-only and the utility controls the invitation. HB 78 takes us in the right direction for transparency, consumer protection, and bringing us in line with the industry standard of having open planning meetings.
The bill passed unanimously out of the energy interim committee, 11-1 from House energy committee, and 79-20 on 3rd reading of the House. It is waiting on a Senate Energy hearing.