By Kayla Desroches, MTPR

NorthWestern Energy builidng in Butte, MT.

The Montana Senate has approved a bill that could pass costs for the Colstrip coal-fired power plant onto NorthWestern Energy customers if the utility buys an added share in the plant.

Senate Bill 379, intended to continue the operating life of the Colstrip power plant, passed on the 27 to 21 vote and now heads to the House for debate.

The bill could allow an electric utility to pass costs of owning a power plant — including cleanup work and a rate of return — to customers, if approved by state regulators.

Republican Senator Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls sponsored the bill and says it will help the state tap into a needed energy source for Montana.

“What we’re doing is we’re providing here an incentive to purchase low-value, undervalued assets or enter into these power purchase agreements which should hopefully bring down rates for customers.”

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