By Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette

ontana’s attorney general is one step closer to taking up NorthWestern Energy’s fight over Colstrip Power Plant repairs, following a Monday state House vote to nullify portions of the private business agreement governing the generator.

Legislators voted mostly along party lines to empower the attorney general to force Colstrip owners to make power plant repairs that the state deems essential. The bill comes after NorthWestern Energy found itself on the losing end of power plant maintenance decisions, which by contract are decided by majority vote among Colstrip’s six owners.

Not making the repairs dictated by state government would cost each non-submissive power plant owner a fine of $100,000 a day. Five Democrats crossed over to vote with Republicans on the 72-28 decision.

“This is a power plant that’s in Montana. Montana should determine if it survives or not,” said Rep. Derek Skees, a Kalispell Republican. “That’s exactly what this bill does.”

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