Montana Public Radio

NorthWestern Energy

The city and county of Missoula are applying to participate in the state’s approval process for a proposed gas-fired power plant in southeast Montana.

The city and county of Missoula on Thursday filed their motion to take part in consideration of NorthWestern Energy’s proposed facility as an intervenor.

NorthWestern is asking for approval from regulators to build a 175-megawatt natural gas-fired plant in Laurel, just west of Billings, and to contract on a 50-megawatt battery storage facility proposed for construction in Yellowstone County.

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.

The owners of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant are now required to study how the city of Colstrip will keep its supply of drinking water if the plant ever shuts down.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed that requirement into law Wednesday.

Colstrip relies on the power plant owners to transport drinking water over 30 miles from the Yellowstone River.

Town Mayor John Williams stood in front of the legislature this year to ask for help in securing that flow if the plant closes

“We are very dependent upon that source of water for our town supply.”

Two new Montana laws that aim to keep the Colstrip coal-fired power plant open and running sparked a lawsuit from plant owners who say the government is intruding on private business dealings.

'Capitol Talk' is MTPR's weekly legislative analysis program.
Montana Public Radio

The dispute between Republican legislative leadership and the state Supreme Court will likely continue after the legislative session ends. This as Montana joins several states in passing changes to voting laws — and those changes are already being challenged in court. And Friday, lawmakers reached a compromise on how to implement recreational marijuana.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

A bill that would have allowed Montana’s largest electric utility to recover costs and a rate of return from its customers for coal-fired power generation was tabled in committee Wednesday.

The Session Week 16: Separation Of Powers And The Future Of Colstrip

Apr 19, 2021

As of mid-day Friday, 1,297 bills have been introduced and at least 197 have been signed into law. This week we’re watching a mounting dispute over separation of powers between the Legislature and the Montana Supreme Court. We’re also watching debate on a bill that would incentivize the state’s largest utility to buy more of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.

As the Montana House held its first hearing on a bill that could allow NorthWestern Energy to pass costs on to its customers for the utility’s coal-fired power investments, opponents of the idea held protests in multiple cities.

Lawmakers continue to debate the cost of the proposal.

Around 50 people gathered in a protest organized in part by climate change advocacy group 350Montana in front of a NorthWestern Energy office building in Missoula.

Gov. Gianforte is one of Montana's new cases of COVID. The marijuana bills are now in the Senate's lap. The House votes to abide by the First Amendment. The Republican PSC opposes a Republican Colstrip bill. And the Republican renaissance in Montana owes a lot to the legacy of former Governor Stan Stephens.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

NorthWestern Energy builidng in Butte, MT.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

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.