| Five Things

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 being heard in the House Energy Committee on April 8th.

SB 331, by Sen. Tom Richmond (R-Billings), pretends to secure the future of the Colstrip coal-fired power 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 by obligating its customers to shoulder the burden of increased costs for decades to come.

SB 331 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.

SB 331 also requires NorthWestern’s captive ratepayers to pay up to $75 million to cover spending at the plant 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 the customer’s best interests.

Once NorthWestern buys an additional share of Colstrip, its customers are on the hook for costs, regardless of whether they are prudent, 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:


Passed the Senate Energy Committee 9-4 vote. Passed the Senate Floor 27-22 vote. Hearing in the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee on April 8th.

2. Protect Montana’s 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. The RPS has been successful so far in accomplishing this goal. Unfortunately, HB 487 does the exact opposite by allowing 100+ year old hydro dams to count.

What YOU Can Do:

  • Call Governor Steve Bullock at (406) 444-3111 and ask that he oppose HB 487


HB 487 has passed the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

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

SB 252, by Sen. 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.


Passed the House and Senate. On the way to the Governor’s desk.

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, and would avoid a competitive bidding process. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Bullock in 2017.

What YOU Can Do:


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.

5. Even More Coal Subsidies

HB 476, by Rep. Jim Keane (D-Butte), would authorize the Montana Board of Investments to offer low interest loans to NorthWestern Energy to pay for a coal unloading facility at Colstrip. This sort of loan would enable NorthWestern to buy an increased share, operate the Colstrip plant, or bring in coal from mines other than Colstrip.

What YOU Can Do:

  • Call Governor Steve Bullock at (406) 444-3111 and ask that he oppose HB 476.


Passed the House and Senate. On the way to the Governor’s desk.

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