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Environmental Group Challenges NorthWestern's Planned Natural Gas Power Plant

An environmental group is suing to stop construction of a natural gas-fired power plant in southeast Montana.

350 Montana in a complaint filed Thursday asks a Missoula judge to block approval of the project and declare that the process state regulators use to approve new electricity supply developments is unconstitutional.

NorthWestern Energy intends to build a 175-megawatt natural gas plant in Laurel, just west of Billings. The company on May 19 submitted its application for pre-approval from state electric utility regulators.

Jeff Smith with 350 Montana says the pre-approval process benefits the company over its customers.

“We’re lucky in Montana because we have so much hydroelectricity and so much really valuable wind resources and solar resources that we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels anymore,” Smith said.

NorthWestern has said it’s seeking to increase its capacity from on-demand resources like fossil fuels to meet customer need in the state. A spokesperson with NorthWestern was not immediately available for comment.

In addition to its lawsuit, 350 Montana filed a request with the state to become an intervenor in the facility’s pre-approval process.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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