1. Keep the Pressure On: Stop NorthWestern from Gouging its Customers by Deregulating Colstrip!

SB 331, by Sen. Tom Richmond (R-Billings), gives NorthWestern Energy significant control over the amount of money its customers would be forced to pay for the Colstrip power plant. SB 331 bypasses the normal oversight of the Montana Public Service Commission and allows NorthWestern to pass on to customers all remediation and decommissioning costs for its existing ownership shares and any new interest in the Colstrip plant, along with $40 million in costs for whatever NorthWestern desires for an increased ownership share of the plant.

Last week, nine PSC staff members released a memorandum opposing the bill. Three of five Commissioners voted to support it nevertheless, and one didn’t even show-up. Such broad opposition from the PSC staff hasn’t been expressed since deregulation in 1997, and that’s because we haven’t seen this degree of cronyism between the legislature and a monopoly utility since then.

Status

Voted out of the Senate Energy Committee on Tuesday, March 19th. Awaits a vote on the Senate Floor.

What You Can Do:

2. Remediation Funds Should Be Used for Remediation. Period.

HB 722, by Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Libby), allows the Department of Environmental Quality to use remediation bonds at hardrock mines for things other than remediation. The bill says that DEQ can use remediation bonds for “maintenance, monitoring, and other actions,” rather than requiring bond increases to cover ongoing activities at the mine.

HB 722 would deplete funding available for actual remediation work.

Status

Scheduled for a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on March 25th at 3:00 PM, Room 172.

What To Do:

3. Help Rooftop Solar!

HB 144, by Alan Redfield (R-Livingston), harms solar jobs and investments in Montana by eliminating a modest incentive for rooftop solar systems. Montana’s solar industry is on the cusp of explosive growth that would create new, well-paying jobs across the state. Rooftop solar also helps residents, businesses, schools, and others to control their electricity bills.

HB 144 would harm Montana’s rooftop solar industry and hinder the ability for Montanan’s to choose where they get their energy from.

Status

Passed the House Taxation Committee on a 12-6 vote. Passed 2nd Reading on the House 56-44 on March 25th. It must be voted on again on the House floor to pass.

What To Do:

4. It’s Time for The Holiday to End.

HB 691, by Rep. Tom Woods (R-Bozeman), aims to reallocate “oil and gas tax holiday” funds from industry toward impact relief and a transition to renewables. This bill would establish two trusts. One would create an account to help mitigate the impact of such a transition on oil and gas communities. The interest from the second trust could be used for renewable programs down the road.

It’s been a long and lucrative vacation for industry, but as the rest of the world moves forward, it’s high time Montana start problem-solving about how to better-incorporate renewables into our energy future and scale-back our dependence on fossil fuels.

Status

Scheduled for a hearing in the House Taxation Committee on Tuesday, March 26th at 9:00 AM, Room 152.

What To Do:

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