By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
Senate Bill 379, which would have greased the wheels for more Colstrip investment by NorthWestern Energy at ratepayer expense, stalls in committee.
The House Energy Committee voted Wednesday to table one of the most controversial energy bills of the session, Senate Bill 379, which had inspired protests in a handful of cities around Montana, garnered thousands of comments in opposition and generated heated legislative debates.
Though many bills this session have been promoted as ways to extend the operating life of the Colstrip power plant, SB 379 was presented as crucial to any future acquisitions of coal-fired power by regulated energy monopoly NorthWestern Energy.
When the bill was first introduced, Montana Public Service Commissioner Tony O’Donnell said he couldn’t recall a bill “more tilted exclusively to the benefit of a utility and to the detriment of ratepayers.” The PSC unanimously opposed the bill, and several commissioners appeared during a Senate Energy Committee hearing to highlight their concerns.