1. Don’t Allow NorthWestern Energy to Raise Your Power Bill for Dirty Coal. No to SB 331!

SB 331 made it through the Senate and is now in the House of Representatives.

SB 331, by Sen. Tom Richmond (R-Billings), pretends to secure the future of the Colstrip plant. First, it does not do that. Second, it saddles NorthWestern’s customers with a blank check  to the utility. Third, it is a gift to NorthWestern’s shareholders at the expense of its customers, and will obligate its customers to shoulder the burden of increased costs for decades to come.

It bypasses the traditional Public Service Commission (PSC) process of determining if an additional generation resource is economic and in the best interest of the monopoly utility’s customers in the short-term and long-term. It also removes the ability of the PSC to set the terms by which that new generation source will be paid for by NorthWestern customers. SB 331 purports to enable something the utility can already do, so long as the PSC approves it: purchase an additional 150 megawatts of Colstrip for $1.

It requires NorthWestern’s captive ratepayers to pay up to $75 million in improvements at Colstrip with no PSC oversight to determine if the investments are warranted, properly assigned to customers, inflated or valid.

It forces NorthWestern’s customers to pay an unlimited amount of money for an additional share of the transmission system and bypasses the PSC’s ability to review that transmission system purchase to make sure it’s in customers’ best interest.

Once NorthWestern buys an additional share of Colstrip, its customers are on the hook for costs including:

  • operation and maintenance,
  • remediation and decommissioning,
  • additional capital improvements at the plant, and
  • an unspecified profit margin for NorthWestern for some of these costs.

What YOU Can Do:

Status

Passed the Senate Energy Committee on a 9-4 vote. Passed the Senate Floor on a 27-22 vote. Awaits a House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications hearing date.

2. Protect the Renewable Energy Standard.

HB 487, by Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell), would completely undermine Montana’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) goal of incentivizing new renewable energy by allowing 100+ year old hydroelectric dams to count toward the standard.

The entire purpose of the RPS was to result in new, additional renewable energy and economic development. This has been successful so far. HB 487 does the exact opposite by allowing 100+ year old hydro dams to count.

What YOU Can Do:

Status

Passed the House Energy Committee on a 7-5 vote. Passed the House Floor on a 64-32 vote. Passed the Senate Energy Committee on an 8-5 vote. Awaits a vote on the Senate Floor.

3. Stop a Misguided Attempt to Bring New Coal to Colstrip

SB 252, by Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip), would allow the owners of the Colstrip plant to avoid going through a public process and obtain coal from a mine other than the neighboring Rosebud mine, thereby increasing costs, decreasing revenue to the state of Montana and its workers, and allowing for the importation of coal from Wyoming.

What YOU Can Do:

  • Call Governor Steve Bullock at (406) 444-3111 and ask that he oppose SB 252.

Status

Passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee on an 8-4 vote. Passed the Senate Floor on a 37-13 vote. Awaits a vote in the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications Committee.

4. No Free Pass for Otter Creek!

SB 329, by Sen. Tom Richmond (R-Billings), would allow for the extension of state coal leases. SB 329 would require the state to extend the lease for the Otter Creek coal mine for another decade. The extension would deprive the state of the revenue that a new lease would require. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Bullock in 2017.

What YOU Can Do:

Status

Passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee on an 7-5 vote. Passed the Senate Floor on a 28-21 vote. Awaits a vote in the House Natural Resources Committee.

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