By Laura Lundquist, Missoula Current

The Legislature is halfway toward not only allowing NorthWestern Energy to dodge a $2.5 million fine, but also eliminate Montana’s requirement for utilities to use renewable energy.

After a March 17 hearing, a House committee is still considering Senate Bill 237, sponsored by Sen. Doug Kary, R-Billings, which would eliminate a requirement for large-scale utilities to buy a certain amount of electricity from small locally-owned community energy projects as part of Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“In Missoula we have both city and county governments working with the utility on carbon-neutral and carbon-free production. They’re taking leadership; they want the citizens involved,” said Jim Morton, Human Resource Council director. “No longer do we want (electricity) coming from far away. If you read this bill, it takes away the community part and goes back to more corporate-centered production.”

Created by the 2005 Legislature, the Renewable Portfolio Standard requires large utilities to acquire 15% of their electricity from renewable resources. That’s not much compared to other states such as Colorado at 30%, Nevada, which is aiming for 50% renewable energy by 2030, and Washington, which plans to be 100% renewable by 2045.

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